Bianca Andreescu continued her fairytale run in Indian Wells with a remarkable 6-3 2-6 6-4 win over Elina Svitolina in a thrilling semi-final.
The Canadian, 18, beat Dominika Cibulkova, Wang Qiang and Garbine Muguruza on her way to the semi-final, and she never looked daunted by the challenge of facing the Ukrainian.
“This is so incredible,” Andreescu said in her on-court interview. “This past week has been a dream come true. (I have loved) playing in front of amazing crowds like you guys.”
She continued, “Today I just believed in myself. I’ve watched these top players so many times on TV so it’s really incredible to play against them – and win!”
In the first three games of the match, Andreescu simply hit the ball as hard as she could and Svitolina absorbed the power and re-directed the ball sensibly.
This led to numerous errors from the Canadian and enabled the Ukrainian to move into a 3-0 lead.
However, Andreescu gathered herself at the changeover and came out with a different plan. She continued to hit the ball powerfully but the direction of her shots was far more intelligent.
The teenager also mixed things up. She sliced the ball at times, hit cross-court when she had previously gone down the line and came into the net occasionally.
She also dictated the play, and Svitolina simply could not handle her dramatic improvement. Consequently, Andreescu reeled off seven consecutive games to take the first set 6-3 and go 1-0 up in the second set.
Svitolina takes her chances to hit back
Perhaps inevitably, the Canadian could not sustain the same level forever. She made a string of errors to drop her serve to love and enable the Ukrainian to gain a foothold in the match.
Svitolina took advantage of this lull from Andreescu with a steady hold to move 2-1 ahead. That scoreline gave the World No.6 a platform to attack the Canadian in game four, and she did this to good effect to earn two break points.
Andreescu saved one and Svitolina wasted the other, but the game was not over yet. The Ukrainian got the better of a pulsating rally to earn another break point, and the Canadian netted a backhand to surrender her serve.
Svitolina made a couple of sloppy errors in the next game to gift Andreescu two break points. However, she re-focused, saved them both and went on to hold serve for a 4-1 lead.
Both players faced a few difficulties in their next service games, but both safely negotiated them to move the score on to 5-2 in the Ukrainian’s favour.
By this stage, it seemed like Svitolina knew how to deal with the type of shots Andreescu likes to play. She repeatedly read the Canadian’s intentions in game eight, and this enabled her to hit winners on the big points and break the teenager to clinch the set.
Andreescu starts the decider impressively but Svitolina fights backEmbed from Getty Images
Svitolina made a few poor decisions in the opening game of the decider. Andreescu pounced on these. She stepped inside the court and hit winners to break the Ukrainian. The Canadian then consolidated her advantage with a comfortable hold.
However, the World No.6 has experienced most situations in her eight years on the senior tour, and she did not panic. She played a series of smart points to hold serve, and then put pressure on the teenager by forcing a break point.
Andreescu saved it in trademark aggressive style. She then unleashed a string of big groundstrokes to secure an important hold and stay two games ahead at 3-1.
Svitolina responded superbly again. She played four commanding points to hold serve to love. She then put massive pressure on the Canadian’s serve by getting everything back and was rewarded with three break points.
The Ukrainian narrowly missed with a backhand down the line on the first. She then netted a backhand return on the second. But she took the third by drawing another error from Andreescu’s racket to level the score.
Andreescu pounces when Svitolina falters
At 30-30 in game seven, Svitolina made an unforced error. It cost her dearly, as the Canadian crunched a forehand winner to seize her second break of the set.
The World No.6 earned three break-back points by targeting Andreescu’s weaker forehand side. However, she missed a volley on the first one and the teenager saved the next two emphatically. She then won the next two points to move within one game of another big win in her young career.
In game nine, Svitolina eased to a 40-15 lead. However, the Ukrainian made two consecutive unforced errors to give the teenager a chance of a break.
Andreescu hit a powerful winner to earn match point, but just missed with another attempted put-away that would have ended proceedings. She kept going for her shots during the rest of the game, but Svitolina eventually held.
The Canadian made a couple of sloppy errors to fall 15-30 behind on her serve. She then advanced to the net on the next point and could only watch as the Ukrainian guided the ball past her.
Andreescu dug deep to save both break points. She then earned two more match points, which Svitolina saved with gutsy winners. However, the Ukrainian could not keep up these heroics, and on the Canadian’s fourth match point, the World No.6 netted a backhand. What a win for the teenager.
[Originally published on ubitennis.net]