What was the most noticeable extraneous detail from the match between Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka Friday night in Beijing?
(No, not the fact that darling good-luck charm Coco Andreescu wasn’t there. But yes, that, too).
For the first time in recent memory, there was a significant accessory missing from the 19-year-old Canadian’s on-court kit.
THE HAIR BAND!
The coiled elastic, a staple of Andreescu’s wardrobe even on cooler days when she wore a long-sleeved top, was conspicuously missing Friday during her match against Osaka.
Was it just a coincidence that this was the night that the Canadian’s many streaks ended?
INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW!!!!!
Messing with the mojo
Of course, the absence of the trademark tie had nothing to do with Andreescu’s defeat in a fascinating first matchup between these two young stars.
Still, it’s a fascinating coincidence.
Andreescu has worn the thing since her pre-season block at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
This may well be the first known documented evidence of the new phenomenon.
Andreescu has even worn it when it was cool out – over her top.
But not always; the pic below was during Andreescu’s third-round win over Stefanie Voegele at Indian Wells. In the fourth-round win over Qiang Wang, wearing the same top, the elastic didn’t appear to have come out of the bag.
The Canadian stuck to her routine her matches earlier in the tournament, wins against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Jennifer Brady and Elise Mertens.
But on Friday? A blank space.
(Worth noting that the squiggly tan line we’d have expected on that right arm is not, in fact, an issue).
Just a guess, but there’s a chance it won’t go missing again.
Or maybe it’s the start of a new Andreesca hairtie-free era?
We shall see, in Shenzhen. You wouldn’t want an inanimate object to lay claim to a chunk of your winnings.
Through Canadian Bianca Andreescu’s remarkable rise this season, there were a few highly intriguing top-10 matchups she had not yet experienced.
There is role model Simona Halep, No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and – perhaps most fascinating of all – Naomi Osaka of Japan.
The Osaka vs. Andreescu debut took place Friday night in the Beijing quarterfinals. And much of the 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 Osaka victory very much had the feel of … a feeling-out process.
There was more than enough quality in the two-hour, 14-minute match to create plenty of appetite for more. A lot more. Because you’d expect the 21-year-old Osaka and the 19-year-old Andreescu to meet often, on the sports’s grandest stages.
This was not necessarily one of those. While it’s a top-level tournament, the small crowd in Beijing rarely got involved Friday night to help make it come alive. These two will have far more electric moments. And that will only make the tennis even better.
In their first-ever meeting, rarely did Andreescu and Osaka play well at the same time. And the roller-coaster nature of the encounter had everything to do with how they match up, how their strengths are complementary. The outcome very much depended on how well each executed them.
And that’s why it should be one of the eagerly-awaited matchups going forward. The contrast in strengths, styles and temperaments means the potential is off the charts.
“Kind of forgot how it feels to lose”
Andreescu might have jinxed herself when she said – not without justification – that she didn’t want to sound cocky, but she’d kind of forgotten how it feels to lose. But the facts were there to back that up that confidence.
The Canadian had not lost a completed match since Acapulco, more than seven months ago. That’s 17 straight, including titles at Indian Wells, the Rogers Cup and the US Open.
She had had been 8-0 against top-10 players. She had won 13 consecutive three-set matches.
Osaka is no slouch in that department; she was 14-3 in three-setters going in.
But at the start, Andreescu looked just as she did throughout much of that winning streak.
She aired out her arm in the early points of the first game, as Andreescu chose to serve first. She was looking to return deep, but needed a few shots to find the range.
From 40-love, Osaka was broken. The change-of-pace pattern that has been the key to Andreescu’s success kicked in on the break point. She hit a slice, forcing Osaka to hit an awkward forehand slice back. She hit another slice, and Osaka hit a forehand into the net.
“I feel like in the beginning we were just scoping each other out. I could not find the mental line of not being nervous and also being fired up. That was a bit of a struggle,” Osaka told the media in Beijing, via the WTA Tour website. “She was probably thinking, ‘Wow, what is she doing? … Wow, she won two Grand Slams like that?’ “
Big serves vs. big returns
What was apparent is that Andreescu will most often win the battle of second serves between these two. She was firing it in the 90-95 mph range, while Osaka rarely broke 80 mph. Osaka had to know, as Serena Williams found out in New York, that one of Andreescu’s go-to game plans is to really attack the second serve, opting for depth when the outright winner isn’t an option.
Andreescu is able to do that consistently, where so many players – even top ones – hesitate That’s because she’s not wary of finding herself in areas way inside the court that might be the destination if the player really steps in on a weaker second serve. She knows what to do there.
With two breaks and a 5-1 lead, Andreescu was on a roll. But she had barely missed, while Osaka had missed plenty. And before you knew it, the pendulum had swung and Osaka had recuperated the two breaks.
One drop shot turns the Osaka tide
It seemed to turn at 5-2, when Andreescu served for the set for the first time. She tried the forehand drop shot for the first time at 30-15 in that game, on a ball she could have driven. And she missed it. Not by much, but she did. And then Osaka went on a roll of her own.
As Andreescu’s level dropped, Osaka had to feel it. The Japanese star suddenly was no longer on the defensive. She was able to be more balanced when she hit her shots, thus cutting down on the errors. She was changing direction more, taking control of the points a little better, and with better margin. You can’t do that when you’re scrambling; you have to be on the offensive or, at the very least, in neutral situations.
But, just as she did at the US Open when Williams rallied from 1-5 in that second set, Andreescu reset well. She broke, and held at love for the first set.
The difference in that first set was in the effectiveness of the second serve. Andreescu won more than half of hers; Osaka won just 31 per cent of hers.
That matchup of Andreescu’s returning skills with the relative weakness of Osaka’s second serve will be one to watch going forward.
Osaka picks up the level
In the second set, Osaka improved her second-serve efficiency. Part of that was just the fact that she found the rhythm on her first serve.
But not right away.
The second serve remained attackable for the most part. But in this set, Andreescu made more mistakes on those than she had in the first set.
Still, the Canadian broke for 2-1, and saved a break point to consolidate that break and go up 3-1.
Then, Osaka won five straight games – and the second set. As Andreescu’s level dropped, Osaka’s rose. She was more zoned in on Andreescu’s second serve, and Andreescu lost a little courage with that stroke. And when Osaka stepped in to the court, she hardly lost a point. On the other side of the net, Andreescu was allowing her opponent to step into the court. She lost some depth, notably on her own return of serve.
Two blown 3-1 leads
Both Osaka and Andreescu struggled to win points on their second serves in the third set.
Andreescu went 3-for-9; Osaka went a woeful 2-for-12.
So it came down to Osaka’s biggest weapon: her first serve.
The Canadian had a shot to put her stamp on that third set from the start, when she held serve and had a break point on Osaka’s serve in in the second game. She had a 125-mph second serve to work with, too. But where she was putting those away in the first set, she missed this one into the net.
Still, Andreescu once again had a 3-1 lead after she broke in the next return game. But then, she flinched a little. She showed just the littlest hints of frailty here and there, and it was enough for Osaka to get it back on serve.
Andreescu might have called out coach Sylvain Bruneau at that point, because it seemed as though the momentum was slipping away to a greater extent than the match merely being back even.
But she decided to problem-solve on her own.
Osaka wins the final matchups
Osaka was dictating a lot more, and Andreescu was doing a lot more running. And the Canadian wasn’t able to attack the second serve as much simply because Osaka was serving so much better overall.
In that matchup of big strengths, the Japanese player won this round.
And in the “break-point” matchup, which matches Andreescu’s strength in bringing her best tennis in those key moments against Osaka’s ability to convert, the Japanese player also won this round.
In most return categories in 2019, Andreescu ranks higher than Osaka. But not on this day.
The 21-year-old finally managed to switch her racket from the left hand to the right, in order to accept and return the embrace.
There were nice words said – a credit to Andreescu, who had seen a star-making winning streak end. That she appreciates the battle as much as the outcome will serve her well.
“I forgot how it feels [to lose]. Honestly, it sucks. I didn’t miss it at all. But at least I didn’t get whooped 1 and 1. I put on a fight. Honestly, it could have went either way. It was just some points here and there,” Andreescu told the media in Beijing, as reported on the WTA Tour website.
“At the same time I am pissed, but at the same time I’m proud of myself with how I played today. I really fought, especially in that last game. Holy crap, that was crazy.”
The moment was a concrete expression of the Osaka’s observation that they’re very different, personality-wise.
Those types of contrasts are what makes for great rivalries. So is the level of tennis that both these young players can produce.
For Andreescu, it might have been a blessing in the end. To have – let’s say, for argument’s sake – won Beijing and taken that ever-increasing winning streak into the WTA Tour Finals.
Shenzhen isn’t for nearly three weeks, during which Andreescu won’t play. It might have been heavy.
Bianca Andreescu looks ahead towards her 1st @WTAFinals:
"I think I'm playing really well. Maybe even better than at the US Open. I don't know. I'm feeling my shots way better actually. So hopefully it can just get even better from here so I can do well in Shenzhen."
Bianca Andreescu (CAN): No. 15 ==============> No. 5 (The US Open champion enters the top five with a bullet. She’s just 11 ranking points behind No. 4, and less than 200 points from No. 3 – with relatively little to defend until the end of the season and massive opportunities to gain. Her next event, theoretically, was Osaka but she’s skipping both that and Wuhan to return in Beijing).
Belinda Bencic (SUI): No. 12 ==============> No. 10 (The Swiss player returns to the top 10 for the first time since June, 2016, after a fine effort in New York).
Johanna Konta (GBR): No. 16 ==============> No. 11 (Konta has made a nice comeback in the rankings this year; she was at No. 47 at the end of April).
Qiang Wang (CHN): No. 18 ==============> No. 12 (Despite being demolished by Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, Wang still rises to a career high with a quarter-final effort that included an upset win over new No. 1 Barty in the fourth round).
Magda Linette (POL): No. 53 ==============> No. 45 (Linette, 27, won her first WTA Tour title in the Bronx the week before the US Open out of the qualifying, and followed it up with a first-round win in New York before losing to Naomi Osaka. Going into the Bronx, she was ranked No. 80; now, she’s into the top 50 and at a career high – actually, tied in points with Viktoria Kuzmova for No. 50).
Ons Jabeur (TUN): No. 62 ==============> No. 51 (The Tunisian is at a career high and actually tied with Viktoria Kuzmova for the No. 50 spot on points).
Fiona Ferro (FRA): No. 74 ==============> No. 61 (The 22-year-old, low-key Frenchwoman reaches a career high).
Anna Blinkova (RUS): No. 84 ==============> No. 73 (The Russian, who turns 21 Tuesday, gets to a career high in singles and in doubles (No. 57) after winning the New Haven Challenger in both singles and doubles with Oksana Kalashnikova).
Taylor Townsend (USA): No. 116 ==============> No. 83 (A breakthrough for the American, and the serve-volley game, as Townsend gets back into the top 100).
Timea Babos (HUN): No. 112 ==============> No. 92 (Back in the top 100 after qualifying at the US Open; she lost to Coco Gauff, but made some progress as she continues to work with American coach Michael Joyce).
Kristie Ahn (USA): No. 141 ==============> No. 93 (After earning a wild card in the USTA playoff, the American gets into the top 100 at age 27 after upsetting former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round, and Jelena Ostapenko in the third round. She also banked a tidy $280,000 US, which will help her going forward).
Catherine McNally (USA): No. 121 ==============> No. 105 (The 17-year-old American made a splash at the US Open by taking Serena Williams to three sets).
Cori Gauff (USA): No. 140 ==============> No. 106 (Gauff got a lot of attention at the US Open, reaching the third round. She’s allowed three more tournaments until she turns 16 next March, and none are scheduled to be this year).
ON THE DOWNSWING
Naomi Osaka (JPN): No. 1 ==============> No. 4 (All in all, it could have been worse, as Osaka next hits … Osaka).
Anastasija Sevastova (LAT): No. 11 ==============> No. 18 (Sevastova was a semifinalist a year ago, lost in the third round to Petra Martic this year).
Marketa Vondrousova (SVK): No. 17 ==============> No. 22 (The 20-year-old from the Czech Republic reached the French Open final. But she’s barely played since. She played two matches at Eastbourne, lost in the first round of Wimbledon to Madison Brengle, and skipped the hard-court season entirely because of a left wrist injury (she’s a lefty). She just pulled out of Osaka next week, too).
Lesia Tsurenko (UKR): No. 40 ==============> No. 68 (Tsurenko was a quarterfinalist a year ago, losing to eventual champion Osaka. But she’s been out for awhile with an elbow injury, and couldn’t defend her points from a quarterfinal in Cincinnati, either).
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK): No. 70 ==============> No. 96 (She looks busy with an academy back home, but Cibulkova hasn’t played since losing in the first round of the French Open about 4 1/2 months ago. And from what we can see, she hasn’t entered anything else the rest of the season).
Vera Zvonareva (RUS): No. 85 ==============> No. 102 (Zvonareva, who worked so hard to get back into the top 100, has slid out after being off the court since losing in the first round of Rome and the French Open. She also has a left injury (although she’s a righty, with a two-handed backhand).
Maria Sharapova (RUS): No. 87 ==============> No. 135 (Her ranking is sort of irrelevant, as she can get top-20 wild cards. Still, it’s not a number she’d want to look at).
Eugenie Bouchard (CAN): No. 119 ==============> No. 151 (The Canadian is out of the top 150. And she has cancelled her planned efforts to play on the Asian circuit. Bouchard pulled out of Nanchang this week and Guangzhou next week (where she was in the qualifying). She also withdrew from Wuhan, where she was a long way from the main draw but, had she entered the qualifying, might have squeezed in by the the it came around. Her new status puts her way down the list for Linz and Luxembourg – where we’re told she has an ongoing deal to appear in Luxembourg, so she’ll need a wild card. Meanwhile, the former No. 5 has entered a $60,000 ITF event in Templeton, Calif. the week of Sept. 23 but not, so far, a similar event in Charleston the following week. She also has entered $80Ks in Macon, Georgia and Tyler, Texas in late October/early November).
Francoise Abanda (CAN): No. 278 ==============> No. 351 (An awful drop for Abanda, who lost in the first round of US Open qualifying to Sachia Vickery, whom she had beaten a few weeks before at the Granby Challenger. Abanda reached the final round of qualifying in New York last year, and the quarters at the Challenger in Chicago the next week. So that was 65 points off the docket. She, too, will return to action on the ITF circuit and try to reverse the curve).
The race to Shenzhen
Andreescu also moves to No. 4 with a rocket in the race to the year-end championships in Shenzhen, China.
FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Saturday is a big moment in the careers of teenagers Bianca Andreescu and Coco Gauff.
Andreescu, the 19-year-old from Canada, will make her Arthur Ashe Stadium debut – in her US Open main draw debut – as she takes on No. 19 seed Caroline Wozniacki during the day session.
And on Saturday night, 15-year-old Gauff, who played her first two rounds in the (very large) Louis Armstrong Stadium – will also hit the biggest stage in tennis for a highly publicized match against defending champion Naomi Osaka.
On Saturday morning, they both got a bit of a taste of the big stadium.
And they even ran into each other on the crossover, and greeted each other warmly.
FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – If the challenge in the first round was to adjust to the heretofore rare experience of playing an opponent younger than she was, the challenge in Round 2 of the US Open will be just the opposite for Canadian Bianca Andreescu.
The 19-year-old will square off for the first time with 33-year-old Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
It could be a fascinating matchup, tactically.
Flipkens’s game possesses many of the changes of pace that Andreescu is quickly becoming known for.
She doesn’t have the same power from the baseline.
But she also has a more effective slice, and an even greater willingness to come to the net.
Conversely, she lost to the ultimate junkballer (we say this with love and awe), Hsieh Su-Wei, in her last two tournaments.
Lucky loser looking for more
This is the 11th US Open main draw for Flipkens, who has gotten past the second round only once – in her second attempt, exactly a decade ago.
Her singles ranking, as high as No. 13 back in 2013 and just in side the top 50 at the start of this season, was down to No. 110. Hence the need to qualify.
She lost in the final round to Johanna Larsson. But as a lucky loser, she had the good fortune to meet another lucky loser, 18-year-old Xiyu Wang of China. She prevailed in three sets.
If the support Andreescu received from a crowd dotted with red and white in first-round match against the American Volynets is any indication, Andreescu will have the “home-field” advantage again.
The winner will meet the winner of the night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium between No. 19 seed Caroline Wozniacki and American Danielle Collins.
TORONTO – There’s no way to know how Bianca Andreescu will play, when she meets compatriot Genie Bouchard Tuesday at the Rogers Cup.
The 19-year-old has played just one match in 4 1/2 months – a first-round win at the French Open.
It extended over two days. And before the Canadian was to play her second round, she withdrew from the tournament.
As it was, she had no tournament preparation going into Paris. And she said Saturday that while she was pain-free leading up to the Grand Slam tournament, she started feeling the shoulder again a few days before.
So both she and Bouchard are unknown quantities going into a match that will get a lot of attention in Canada.
LONDON – It wasn’t a surprise, really more a matter of when.
But Canada’s top-ranked female player, Bianca Andreescu, has officially withdrawn from Wimbledon.
The world No. 25 is dealing with a shoulder issue that goes back to her breakout victory at Indian Wells in mid-March.
She got through to the round of 16 at the Miami Open immediately afterwards, beating Angelique Kerber for the second straight tournament. But the 18-year-old retired early in the second set of her match against Anett Kontaveit of Estonia there.
Andreescu rested and rehabbed the shoulder. She hoped to be healthy in time for the French Open, some two months later.
She made it. And she defeated Marie Bouzkova in a tough three-setter played over two days to advance to the second round.
But after that, due to play American Sonia Kenin, she withdrew.
No prep, no point
The Canadian pulled out of her scheduled grass-court events. Clearly it made no sense to try to play another Grand Slam without adequate preparation. And there’s no word on whether the shoulder is even fit to play.
Per her Instagram account, Andreescu is currently in Arizona.
All of that means that Genie Bouchard is the only Canadian woman entered in singles at Wimbledon – including the women’s qualifying, which begins Tuesday.
A Canadian women’s group – of two
Bouchard is not match tough. She didn’t play at all for more than two months, between a first-round loss in the Miami Open qualifying and a first-round loss at the French Open.
She returned to the tour a month later, but suffered a 6-2, 6-0 loss to France’s Fiona Ferro in the first round of qualifying at Eastbourne last Friday. Bouchard won the first eight points (two games), but was blanked by Ferro after that.
Rebecca Marino, the only Canadian who would have made it into the singles qualifying by ranking, hasn’t played since the French Open qualifying because of plantar fasciitis.
On the men’s side, Milos Raonic, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov will be in the men’s singles draw.
Vasek Pospisil, who has been out nearly nine months after back surgery, is making his return on a protected ranking.
Peter Polansky is already eliminated, losing in the first round of qualifying Monday. Either Brayden Schnur or Steven Diez, who play each other in the second round, will make at least the final round.
Gabriela Dabrowski will be seeded in the women’s doubles, with partner Yifan Xu of China.
Leylah Annie Fernandez, who won the French Open girls’ singles title, will not be playing the Wimbledon juniors.
Rising Canadian star Bianca Andreescu hasn’t picked up a racket since she was forced to retire during her fourth-round match in Miami.
The right shoulder woes had been evident by the amount of tape in that area, from the triumphant Indian Wells final through those four matches at the Miami Open.
Her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, revealed on a Canadian French-language radio program to be broadcast later on Friday that Andreescu is dealing with a “small tear” in the shoulder.
“At the moment, she’s doing a lot of physical training,” Bruneau told Radio-Canada’s 15-18 program. “The focus is on the physical preparation … She’ll see the doctor next Monday, and we’ll see what happens after that.”
PRP treatment and rest
Bruneau told Tennis.Life that the tear is a small one in the subscapularis, which is the largest muscle in the rotator cuff and is in the front of the shoulder.
Andreescu had a PRP injection three weeks ago – or upon her return home from her breakthrough efforts in Indian Wells and Miami.
PRP therapy, or “Platelet Rich Plasma” therapy, is becoming more and more common in treating injuries. And not just those to professional athletes – weekend warriors as well. Basically, a sample of the patient’s blood is taken and spun in a centrifuge to separate out the precious platelet-rich cells. Those cells are reinjected at the site of the injury.
Those platelets are believed to have a regenerative effect. And the procedure, which Rafael Nadal has used to great effect on his knees, is said to speed up recovery.
Andreescu has been seeing the doctor every Monday, to check the progress.
Long stretch of tennis
After defeating Angelique Kerber twice in the space of two weeks, Andreescu faced Anett Kontaveit for an opportunity to go to the Miami Open quarterfinals.
Again, the shoulder and upper arm were heavily taped. But in the end, down 1-6, 0-2 and having treatment on the court, the Canadian pulled the plug.
Andreescu bowed out from representing Canada in Fed Cup this weekend against the Czech Republic. With the absences of Eugenie Bouchard and Françoise Abanda, that left the Canadian squad rather shorthanded.
No. 184 Rebecca Marino, who hasn’t played any clay-court tennis at all since 2013 with the exception of one entry-level $15,000 ITF event a year ago – will play No. 1. She’ll meet Karolina Muchova in the first match Saturday.
And 16-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez, at a career-high No. 376 in the WTA Tour rankings but a top-10 junior player, will make her Fed Cup debut at No. 2 singles against Marketa Vondrousova in the second match.
Big clay-court events coming up
Given the news, it’s no surprise that Andreescu took a pass. There was no question she was eager to play the tie if healthy.
Her next WTA Tour events will be big ones – top-flight clay-court events in Madrid the week of May 4 (about 2 1/2 weeks away), and in Rome the week after that.
This will be the 18-year-old’s first visit to those top-level tournaments. And it appears she’ll have little time to prepare on the red clay even in the best-case scenario.
But the big one, of course, is the French Open.
Andreescu will not only be making her main-draw debut there, she’ll also be seeded.
She lost in the first round of qualifying in 2017 to Tereza Smitkova, and in the final round of qualifying a year ago to Richel Hogenkamp.
“Obviously, Madrid and Rome are getting close. She could do very well during the clay-court season. So I hope she’ll be able to get back in the court soon,” Bruneau added.
The photo above is of better days, hopeful days, as a jubilant Canadian Fed Cup squad swept the Netherlands in February.
Two months later, the bad news is … well, it’s pretty much all bad news.
The team had been counting on the young player of the hour, 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu, to lead the team in its effort to get into World Group I.
But Andreescu is pretty banged up after a career-making trip to Indian Wells and Miami. And she has a big spring clay-court season ahead as a top-25 player. So she can’t make the date.
Also out? Genie Bouchard, who hasn’t played since Miami.
Also out? Françoise Abanda, a player whose best career moments have come when representing her country.
It’s a key playoff tie that would get them into World Group I. But to face the Czechs in Prostejov, the vaunted Canadian tennis program basically had to get all hands on deck.
Representing Canada at Fed Cup has always been a dream of mine and I’m very sad that due to my shoulder injury, I won’t be able to play this next tie against Czech. I’m working hard with my team to make sure I’m stronger and better than ever so I can get back on court soon.
At No. 2? That likely will be Leylah Annie Fernandez. The 16-year-old will be making her Fed Cup debut. The alternative is Gabriela Dabrowski, a doubles star who is a talented singles player, but has rarely played in recent years.
The fourth member of the team will be Sharon Fichman.
Fichman has played in 27 Fed Cup ties in her career, most of them on the South American clay in the zonals.
But the 28-year-old hasn’t worn the colours since 2016. She had basically retired before returning in doubles last year.
The “press-release quote” from new captain Heidi el Tabakh is, as you would expect, full of positive.
“Our players have all had some good results since the start of the year. And we are hoping to capitalize on their momentum going into this matchup. We recognize that this tie represents a challenge for us as we are playing a great team who is proficient on a clay court surface. They are last year’s Fed Cup champions. And we will be prepared for some tough matches.”
Basically, it’s a disaster
The Canadians were so impressive in February, playing on indoor clay in the Netherlands.
Andreescu didn’t drop a set in her two singles matches. Abanda, whose shoulder already was bothering her and has barely played since, impressively defeated lefty Arantxa Rus. And Dabrowski and Marino won the dead-rubber doubles to sweep.
The win over the Netherlands was Marino’s first participation in a Fed Cup tie since 2011. So, in retrospect, it was good for her to at least get her feet wet in anticipation of the heavy load she’ll have to carry in Prostejov.
Since returning after a 5 1/2-year retirement at the beginning of last season, Marino has played singles on red clay just once. It was early in her comeback in 2018, at one of the lower-level Futures events she played in Antalya, Turkey.
Before that, the Vancouver native’s last red-clay experience goes back to the 2011 French Open. There, she reached the third round and lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova. So far in her career, that has been the only good result for her on that surface.
From Osaka to Prostejov, for Canada
The bigger challenge Marino faces is that she is currently in her fifth consecutive week on the ITF hard-court circuit – in Japan.
It is both impressive and commendable that she’s willing to fly from Osaka to the Czech Republic, with the jet lag and all the wear and tear she’s experienced over the last five weeks, and quickly switch to a less-beloved surface to represent the maple leaf.
But it’s a big challenge.
(Marino, who was a finalist last week in Kashiwa, won her first-round singles match in Osaka Tuesday. But has yet to play her first-round doubles match).
Rookie Fernandez at No. 2?
The most experienced and accomplished of the group, Dabrowski played singles last week at an ITF in Florida. But that’s been a rare occurrence in recent years given the disparity between her doubles ranking (which allows her to play the biggest WTA events), and her current singles ranking of No. 387.
With the Fed Cup format putting the doubles rubber last after the singles, the outcome is often decided before it gets to that point. And so Dabrowski’s expertise has too often not been called upon.
Fernandez, who reached the semifinals in her Grand Slam junior debut at the French Open a year ago, is very much an outsider in the Tennis Canada scheme.
She receives very little financial support, even though she reached No. 4 in the junior rankings after making the girls’ singles final at the Australian Open in January. She trains in Florida with her father, Jorge.
The young lefty does have more recent clay-court experience – although it was in Australia. Fernandez reached the quarterfinals of a pair of $25,000 ITF events. Both times, she came out of the qualifying, and was defeated by Aussie veteran Olivia Rogowska. Her WTA Tour ranking stands at a career-best No. 376.
Under(wo)manned Czechs still strong
The Czechs will not have top-10 players Petra Kvitova or Karolina Pliskova on board.
But unlike Canada, this established tennis nation has significant depth.
The players who will take part – Marketa Vondrousova, Karolina Muchova, Maria Bouzkova and Barbora Krejcikova (who just won a big ITF title on the American clay in Florida) are all ranked much higher than the Canadians. Krejcikova also is ranked No. 2 in the world in doubles, typically paired with Katerina Siniakova.
Veteran Lucie Safarova, who will officially retire at a home tournament in Prague later this month, is the fifth member of the team.
A big challenge made even bigger
To sum up, it’s a pretty dire situation for the Canadians, who would have had a better than fighting chance with their best assets – Andreescu, Bouchard and Abanda – at full strength.
Here’s the press-release blurb about the absence of Andreescu. There is no elaboration on the absences of Bouchard and Abanda.
“Bianca Andreescu was not named to the Canadian Fed Cup team for the upcoming tie against the Czech Republic due to a lingering injury that she suffered during the Miami Open. Andreescu has been recuperating and slowly preparing for her return to competition. Representing Canada has always been a priority for Andreescu, who has played in eight consecutive Fed Cup ties since her debut in 2017. Although she is unable to participate, she wishes the team the best of luck and she will be ready for the next tie.”
Andreescu, meanwhile, has won 10 matches in a row on the U.S. sunshine swing, after coming through to win Indian Wells last week as a wild card.
She is now 31-3 on the season, including two Fed Cup victories against the Netherlands and the title at a WTA 125K tournament in Newport Beach, Calif.
Tight shoulder, sore body
The strapping on the shoulder, with tape running down her right arm and another bandage below the elbow, has been in place since that Indian Wells final.
And she has played three matches in four days in Miami. Andreescu had a medical timeout to try to loosen that shoulder, and the allowed two visits on changeovers subsequent to that to dispense more quick treatment.
It’s all a lot. The Canadian has been answering the same questions for two weeks. And a look at the video below will give an idea of just how repetitive some of those can be.
On a dramatic night that ended after 1:30 a.m., she was asked three times in the space of a few minutes about her next opponent, which will be Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Twice by the same fellow, who rapidly changed the microphone flash to a different logo and asked the same questions again.
At this point, she has to feel as though she’s repeating herself. She might try to run into Roger Federer and see how he’s managed it for 15 years.
“Biggest drama queen”
In the cool light of day, Kerber thought better of the low-level trash talking, and issued a bit of a damage-control Tweet. It was the right thing to do.