Tonight I do not know where to begin, so I’ll start with the end. The final match on Stadium 1 was the long-awaited title defense of 2019 BNP Paribas Open champion, Bianca Andreescu. She is the inspiration for the slogan, “She the North.”
Bianca Andreescu fights past Alison Riske, 7-6(2) 5-7 6-2
Due to COVID impacts to the tour schedule, Andreescu has had to wait almost two years for this moment. It began at 8 pm and what a moment, in this case a long drawn-out battle with American Alison Riske.
The world No.21 Andreescu struck first and went up 3-1. Riske fought back holding her own serve for 3-2. The American later dug in after producing a love hold to force the first-set tiebreak. Then the 16th-seeded Canadian stepped on the gas, taking the breaker with a double-fault assisted from Riske on the final point.
With the world No.51 Riske carrying a fresh wound, many thought Andreescu would have the definite edge and closing the match in two sets was likely. Following that story line, Andreescu broke first, going up 3-1.
But Riske was not done, not by a “literal” long-shot. The pivot point came when she broke Andreescu to get back within reach to 4-3. Back on serve, Riske fought very hard to hold, defending break points and her own demons that were realized as two double-faults.
All that mattered was the score now, 4-4. Andreescu held the edge of holding quickly, but Riske was winning the grit contest. After holding a service game that included a 34-shot rally, she pressed Andreescu and got the break to take the lead, 6-5. Riske conquered her service yips and held for the set, 7-5.
With the score even at 1-1 and nearly two-hours of match play, Andreescu knew what she had to do. Hold, then break, which she made look easy. But it was not easy, as this was a very physical match.
The 21-year-old Andreescu was receiving serve with her samurai warrior stance and Riske took me back to the days of Maria Sharapova with her primal vocalizations. Riske also took chances to chat with her team, which is legal when a player in on the same side, a rule change.
The efforts of both women were tremendous. Not perfect, there were errors, but the physicality was impressive. Playing with faith in her game, Andreescu found the weapons that earned her a first WTA 1000-level title in the desert.
With the finish line in view at 3-0, an unyielding Riske broke Andreescu to 5-2. Living with the lessons of how the American found openings in the first and second sets, Andreescu closed with a final break in just under three-hours.
While the night and court conditions did not suit the American’s flat hitting, Andreescu brought her biggest weapons to bear in the key moments. Both players exited the stadium exhausted, but also knowing they both competed well, very well.
A classic Angelique Kerber denies Katerina Siniakova, 6-1 6-7(4) 7-5
Earlier in the evening, Angelique Kerber took in Katerina Siniakova, who dismissed Kim Clijsters in round-one. This was another very physical match, with both players leaving everything on the court down to the final point.
This one went to a third set which was the “norm” for the WTA today. Up 6-5 in third, a vintage Kerber delivered a line drive winner, a fist pump to 0-40 in Siniakova’s service game. The Czech fought to the final point, at 15-40 she missed the line, and Kerber won the match.
In the third round, Kerber gets Daria Kasatkina, who was a runner-up here to Naomi Osaka in 2018. Some have remarked that the desert courts are playing like clay…
Let that sink in while you check out Sunday’s order of play. Iga Swiatek kicks off the day session, followed by Elina Svitolina, Leylah Fernandez, then Simona Halep. Need I say more? Another amazing day of tennis is ahead, so for now I’ll get some much-needed sleep. (photos: Jimmie48)