Wildcard Bianca Andreescu, 18, completes the feat at Indian Wells

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Eighteen-year-old Bianca Andreescu successfully wrapped up a perfect fortnight at the BNP Paribas Open, shocking Angelique Kerber in the final to lift her maiden WTA champion’s trophy and climb from No.60 to No.24 in the rankings.

[WC] Bianca Andreescu d. [8] Angelique Kerber 6-4 3-6 6-4

Sunday afternoon, a shoulder-strapped 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu stood across the net from a former No.1 and three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden stage is the second largest tennis venue in the world, with 16,000 seats. Only Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open exceeds this capacity. During the past two weeks nothing has overwhelmed Andreescu and that truth would hold today.

First set

Andreescu took the early lead 3-1, breaking Kerber in game 1. The teenager was having tremendous success winning points on second serve. Kerber was playing a very solid game, but Andreescu was a notch above, with a variety that did not allow Kerber to find her rhythm. Andreescu held to 5-3.

While Kerber fought with her own pace, running game and ripping a crosscourt winner, Andreescu held for the set. The Canadian did wobble with a double fault, before taking the next two points to close with a piercing scream.

Noted in this set was that Andreescu was icing during the changeovers.

Second set

Kerber had a very animated discussion with her coach between the first and second set. Releasing a pressure value seemed to help. The 31-year-old fought off a break in a 12-point game to hold and followed up by pressing for a 10-point break, score 3-1 for her. With a consolidated lead, the German kept up the pressure, but Andreescu had answers. At 5-2, Kerber missed break opportunities as Andreescu held a 14-point game. The former world No.1 took full advantage of her serve, closing the set in six points and only one second serve. The crowd was on their feet wanting more.

Third set

The third set began at approximately one hour and 30 minutes. At 1-1, Kerber missed a break chance that would haunt her. Having 30 matches on the books this season and seven here in the desert, Andreescu requested a medical timeout. The physio worked on her elbow. Back on court, there was no slowing down for the Canadian. In fact, she seemed to find the zone, with “go big or go home” thinking. She spoke of visualizing today many times this week.

With the players tied at 3-3, the stadium got quiet. Andreescu was firing on all cylinders and was clearly focused on shortening points, as early signs of cramping that we saw in the semifinal against Elina Svitolina seemed to return. She produced a love hold to 4-3 and followed up, pressing Kerber errors to break, score 5-3. The supportive Canadian crowd exploded.

Andreescu was seen shaking out her legs to stave off the cramps, while Kerber tried to make her run. Kerber broke back and Andreescu literally screamed with her entire body and launched a ball into the stands. The eighth seed stayed engaged and fought off match points. With no real sign of nerves and returning well, Andreescu put pressure on her opponent’s service game. She dictated from the first ball strike. Crushing the ball, Andreescu closed on her fourth match point.

The teenager immediately crumbled on court, laying on her back over the Indian Wells logo for a few minutes. Moments later, she was upright, blowing kisses to the crowd.

Andreescu’s on-court acceptance speech sounded well prepared. Preparation is a key ongoing theme. She thanked all the usual people, but once again expressed gratitude for the support of Tennis Canada. Obviously, they are doing a lot right. She was also not shy in stating next, she wants a slam. Why not?

The 18-year-old had several interesting comments in her post match presser. Here are a few that stand out.

Q: Can you describe the feeling of being in the zone?

BIANCA ANDREESCU: It basically is nothing can distract me. I’m relaxed. I trust myself. I trust my shots. I feel confident. In those moments, I try to breathe as much as I can, as well, to get into the zone. That’s what I do usually before the match.

In this past tournament, it’s definitely helped. I have been in the zone, I think, every match. There were some ups and downs in some matches, obviously. Tennis isn’t a perfect sport.

Q: You mentioned how you have sacrificed a lot. What were really the toughest moments as your career unfolded? Can you take us back to one or two examples?

BIANCA ANDREESCU: There are a lot. It would definitely have to be the injury part of the sport. I have been through a lot with injuries. But now I have a good base, I have a good team around me that helps me prepare well before matches. I do a very good recovery. I eat well.

I don’t necessarily think that being injured is a bad thing. I try to take it in a positive way and just find different things about me that might work later on. That’s what I have been doing.

Also, I have never been to an actual high school, so that definitely is something that I have missed out on. But to be in this moment right now, I don’t regret anything.

Angelique Kerber was naturally disappointed, but with her years of experience she knows she starts again soon and there is positive momentum from this finalist result in the desert. She fielded the following related questions.

Q: What can you take away from this tournament?

ANGELIQUE KERBER: I mean, a lot. That I played here the finals. I was not expecting two weeks ago to be playing here in the finals, especially after the last few weeks where I was a little bit struggling. So that’s why I’m happy about this tournament and that gives me a lot of confidence.

Also today, the match, it was a good one. I know that I have still a few things to learn and to do better the next time. But, in a few days we have another tournament and it’s starting again from zero.

Q: A tough one for you. Can you talk us through the third set and where you felt it slipped away from you?

ANGELIQUE KERBER: After the first set, I was trying to come back. She played good, especially in the third set. When she had the chances, she just went for it. Yeah, she put the balls in the court. In the end, she deserved to win.

So while the WTA battle in the desert of Indian Wells is over, a brand new tournament begins. The Miami Open is already in swing at a new venue, The Hard Rock Stadium. The initial player reviews are thumbs up. So if you missed the excitement of the BNP Paribas Open, the Sunshine State is waiting with open arms. Come see what tennis in a football stadium is all about.


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