Love thy trophy, and never let go: @Bandreescu_ after winning the @BNPPARIBASOPEN pic.twitter.com/kh4WUdZwlA— Jimmie48 Photography (@JJlovesTennis) March 17, 2019
In the last several years, Indian Wells has produced some champions that have excited me. Flavia Pennetta's 2014 victory was very satisfying, as was Elena Vesnina's 2017 triumph. And now, seemingly "out of nowhere," we have Bianca Andreescu (though, to be fair, some people may have found a Kerber victory somewhat "out of nowhere," too).
As with all "out of nowhere" winners, Andreescu was actually coming from somewhere. Serious tennis fans have had their eyes on the Canadian teenager for a while. But--as she said in her press conference--last year was a rough one for her, so to win an event like the BNP Paribas Open was just "crazy."
Watching Andreescu--who took out the likes of Dominika Cibulkova, Wang Qiang and Garbine Muguruza on her way to the semifinals--challenges us to describe her as a player because she does so much so well. Imagine concocting a desert hybrid that contains the laser-like hitting of Kvitova, the fluidity of Muguruza, the volleying savvy of Vinci, the geometric intelligence of Halep and Radwanska, and the grit of Pennetta. Toss it in the sand and wait--and the result is a Canadian-Romanian flower that is both beautiful and hardy.
When Andreescu reached the semifinals, she had her hands full with world number 6 Elina Svitolina, who often outruns and out-thinks the best of them. It didn't help the Canadian's cause that, for much of the match, she was cramping rather badly. Yet, somehow, she contained the pain just enough to defeat Svitolina 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
In the final, Andreescu faced someone else who is as tough as she is--Angie "Never Count Her Out" Kerber. The German star had made quick work of Belinda Bencic in the semifinals (breaking her 12-match win streak), though many assumed that Bencic was on her way to the final.
Andreescu took the first set off Kerber, 6-4.
But the mighty German, doing what she does best, figured out quite a bit about her opponent's game, then came on strong in the next set, taking it 6-3. The final set was simply stunning. Andreescu began cramping again, only worse than she had in the semifinals. But even with that ("I want it so bad," she told her coach during an on-court coaching session in which she was in obvious physical pain), she kept at it.
At 5-4, Andreescu had match points, and Kerber saved them. It seemed logical (though logic wasn't really very useful, at this point) to assume that--if Kerber held--her opponent wouldn't be able to withstand the demands of a 5-all score. And sure enough, suddenly, the Canadian had a match point on Kerber's serve. And then Kerber hit one of the best serves she'd hit in the entire set, setting her up for a deuce score, but--following Andreescu's return--she hit a forehand into the net, and it was over.
The tennis press is already all over Andreescu's report that she meditates and uses visualization. That's a shame, because I'm sure that the vast majority of the tennis press doesn't really know what that means. In time, (I hope) Andreescu will learn how to manage questions and remarks about her mind-body practices. Her mature approach to tennis and her articulate presentation notwithstanding--she's only 18, and it will be interesting to see how she matures as a tennis celebrity, if indeed, that is what she is becoming.
It is an absolute pleasure to watch her play. Sometimes, players who have a huge variety of shots and strategies available to them get confused about what to do when, but there is also something very instinctive about Andreescu's tennis.
This is one complex desert flower.