BNP Paribas Open Angelique Kerber Belinda Bencic Bianca Andreescu Elina Svitolina

Andreescu makes history at Indian Wells, to meet Kerber in the final

Friday night at the BNP Paribas Open was a WTA semifinal double header. Eighteen-year-old Bianca Andreescu continued her meteoric rise by beating Elina Svitolina and becoming the first wildcard ever to reach the final at Indian Wells. The teenager’s opponent in the title match will be Angelique Kerber, who ended Belinda Bencic’s 12-match winning streak.

[WC] Bianca Andreescu (CAN) d. [6] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 6-3 2-6 6-4

After competing with some of the best on tour, Bianca Andreescu is an Indian Wells finalist and the only wildcard to do so. The 18-year-old toppled the familiar names one after another, to the amazement of the crowds and the media — Dominika Cibulkova, Wang Qiang, Garbine Muguruza and tonight Elina Svitolina, one of the most spirited fighters on the WTA tour. Svitolina relied on her marathon grinder game and she nearly pulled it off again in three. Despite an immense physical performance, the Ukrainian fell just short in the thriller.

Svitolina came out of the blocks fighting and took a 3-0 lead after capturing two breaks. Andreescu regrouped, perhaps employing some yoga breaths, and came back winning six successive games. The sixth seed fought hard to hang onto the set, however, in her final service game two double faults crept in and the ten-point game went to Andreescu. The wildcard finished strong with a love hold, taking the first set 6-3.

While Andreescu was up a set and a break in the second set, no one counted Svitolina out. The 24-year-old immediately broke back, taking all four points, and she continued to roll, chasing down the shot variety that Andreescu could bring. Svitolina won four successive games to go up 4-1.

The second set included a 30-shot rally that left the Canadian bent over, gasping for breath at the baseline. Andreescu requested her coach, who reminded her to keep a positive attitude and mindset on every point and to leave a bit more margin on her shots. While she held, Svitolina had the momentum, consolidating her lead with a quick hold to 5-2. With a double fault assist from Andreescu, Svitolina closed the set 6-2. This was an all too familiar scenario and Andreescu released frustration by launching a ball into the air.

Back on serve in the third, Svitolina was moving her serve around, giving her opponent different looks. There were some interesting plays, including the Andreescu moon ball combination and a surprise overhead drop shot from Svitolina. You could see both players working to find solutions. With the score at 3-2 in favor of Andreescu, both coaches were back on court. Svitolina’s coach had sensed the physical grind was beginning to take a toll on Andreescu. Svitolina broke back as the crowd began to hold its breath.

There were subtle signs that Andreescu was beginning to cramp. The camera zoomed in on some of her very concerned facial expressions. Somehow she found her composure, another break and a hold to 5-3. Now you could see hints of desperation in Svitolina. Pure physicality got her the hold after 12 points. Andreescu kept her mind in check and her body followed, so she held after four match points, taking the deciding set 6-4. Elated disbelief was her expression. On the other side, disappointment for Svitolina had to be immense.

In press, Svitolilna described Andreescu as an all-court player and summed up the match:

I think she was playing good tennis. I was up and down. I didn’t play as I wanted. I had my chances. I didn’t take them.

The world No.6 revealed information about her knee, which has been wrapped the entire event. Movement is the hallmark of her game and it is compromised due to inflammation:

It’s a big inflammation, you cannot see so much. I did already scan when I arrived here. So I’m going to do one more, because it was getting worse in some point because I was playing three sets.

This match and the day did not go Svitolina’s way. She disclosed on social media a police mix-up where she and her boyfriend Gael Monfils were held briefly at gunpoint by police earlier today. No one needs that kind of wake-up call.

In contrast, Andreescu was all smiles. The world No.60 started out with:

I’m actually shaking right now. It’s just so incredible. I’m honestly speechless, speechless.

Moments later she found her words speaking highly of the Tennis Canada program producing her generation of players, including Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. She stated it is a very friendly and supportive environment where everyone is treated the same.

Andreescu’s most nervous match at Indian Wells was actually her first. In her words:

Yeah. I actually thought I was going to lose my first round, because I started off really, really slow. I was really nervous. I have never played at Indian Wells before on such a big stadium. I played on Stadium 2. I was pretty nervous.

Given that reveal, it is impressive for this young woman to process and adjust to the challenges she has faced. She referred again to yoga and meditation along with goals she has for herself.

[8] Angelique Kerber (GER) d. [23] Belinda Bencic (SUI) 6-4 6-2

Kerber and Bencic took the late shift, starting about 9 p.m. This semifinal was really all Kerber. In just over an hour, the 16-year tour veteran advanced to her first final at Indian Wells. She is continuing to make her own history.

Kerber’s match stats were superior across the board: first serve points won, return points and break points.

In press, Bencic spoke of how she was uncomfortable from the start:

Yeah, it was 4-2, but I didn’t feel like I was really in the lead. I was really up and down in the start. I just didn’t figure out so much what to do against her. She took my weapons away with how she was playing against me. So I think she did that well. Obviously she’s a great baseline player, so she’s not gonna miss. Definitely she put the wall mode on (smiling).

The 22-year-old discussed her 2019 success:

I think my head is different. You know, definitely I’m healthy. Of course I’m playing. But my mindset is different. Work-wise, it’s kind of always the same.

Bencic heads to Miami with a solid results and although she is disappointed, she holds a positive outlook.

Kerber described her performance tonight this way:

I was finding my rhythm a little bit, like especially in the first few games. And then I started stepping in a little bit and playing really aggressive. I think that was the key that I really took the match in my hand, and I was going for it. That was also the game plan, to really play my tennis again. I played good. And also in the second set. I think that that was the key, that I really was able to play aggressively, especially in the second set.

Kerber described her expectations of the young woman who will stand across the net from her on Sunday:

You know, she really played a great tournament so far. She beat tough opponents. She has nothing to lose. She will enjoy the final. Like me, I will also go out there and try to play like I played the last matches. I know it will be tough challenge, as well, because she played well. I saw the match today a little bit, and I know that she is playing really hard and she is going for it. So she is one who is really taking the match in her hands. I think a good match, on the high level, and I know I have to play also one of my best tennis, especially in the important moments.

Whoever comes through the final will have the first-time champion BNP Paribas Open experience. As I spoke with other media colleagues today, there was agreement that the margins are slim. Will an eager new face propel herself forward or will the occasion engulf her? Will experience and poise prevail? Both scenarios are exciting, with vastly different impacts for each player.

A win would launch Andreescu in a similar manner to Naomi Osaka. And should that occur, she sounds ready. A win for Kerber will solidify her career record and ranking as she heads to the next slam, Roland Garros. Both players get a well-deserved break tomorrow, as the final will be played Sunday. However, there is still an excellent doubles final on Saturday: [1] Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) / Katerina Siniakova v. Elise Mertens (BEL) / Aryna Sabalenka (BLR).

Bianca Andreescu BNP Paribas Open Elina Svitolina Garbine Muguruza Marketa Vondrousova

Teen Andreescu masters the mind, Svitolina finds another energy reserve to reach Indian Wells semifinals

Bianca Andreescu and Elina Svitolina set up a BNP Paribas Open semifinal meeting, after winning their quarterfinals on Wednesday. Let’s have a closer look into their games and the way they defeated Garbine Muguruza and Marketa Vondrousova, respectively.

[WC] Bianca Andreescu (CAN) d [20] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 6-0 6-1

Eighteen-year-old wildcard Andreescu has dropped only one set on her way to the semifinals. The dropped set was in her first-round match against Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu. Her straight-set wins have come against Dominika Cibulkova, Stefanie Voegele, Wang Qiang and former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza.

This 5’7″ right-handed all-court player is living a dream at Indian Wells, but she has worked hard to get here, playing since age 7. A title in the desert would be her first WTA milestone and we all know how Naomi Osaka launched after her maiden title win in 2018.

Andreescu had begun to peak on the way to Indian Wells with a final result in Auckland, a win at the Oracle Challenger Event in Newport Beach and a semifinal finish in Acapulco. While this does not make her the obvious pick for a WTA Premier title, it shows the potential and momentum that can put her on that path.

Today’s result was unreal in a very real way. There is not much to say about a bagel or a breadstick. In fairness, it was an off day for the two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza.

As I reviewed Andreescu’s pressers, I see a few repeating concepts. First, she grasps the idea of building habits that support success. Some examples are starting her day with a 15-minute meditation (yes, we may have the only teenager who does not grab her phone first thing each morning), keeping simple keywords in her head during matches to stay pumped up, and using aromatherapy before matches (she doesn’t want to reveal her secret scent).

Moreover, Andreescu studies her opponents’ matches. Notice that she does not review, she “studies”. I believe that word selection is significant.

Another related concept is preparation. Andreescu talks about the mental part as key in her preparation, because “it (the mind) controls your whole body”. The teenager explained that former coach Nathalie Tauziat gave her a lot of tips on what to do during the match, before the match, after the match. Andreescu learned a preparation process that she uses now, another repeatable habit, and she believes that Tauziat’s pearls of wisdom have gotten her where she is now.

This young woman is very self aware and she has built her own success formula.

She also has perspective beyond her age. She explained that she tries not to have expectations and to accept what is happening and then she tries to work around it. There is an ATP player that comes to mind when I hear the word “accept”, that is Rafael Nadal. Many times over he has said “I have to accept…” and then move on.

Andreescu’s method is simple and sound. In this game of mind over matter, the 18-year-old has mental skills that set the foundation for her physical execution. After all, doesn’t the the mind matter more? In mastery of the mind, there is confidence. This package and her results all make sense now.

[6] Elina Svitolina (UKR) d Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) 4-6 6-4 6-4

Speaking of mind over matter, let’s discuss Svitolina’s win over Vondrousova. The Ukrainian will clash next with Andreescu on Friday, after a well-earned day off.

Svitolina again fought for every ball in her quarterfinal match against Vondrousova. The looming question, when will she run out of gas? I actually wanted to go to Gael Monfils’ presser to ask him if he would be concerned if she were on his side of the draw? As a semifinalist, she did not get here by playing pristine tennis.

There have been ill-timed double faults and failed match point moments that led to a third set when she looked physically spent. Yet, by sheer will and determination, she prevailed every time. When Vondrousova captured the first set, I just thought, well, here we go again.

Her ability to transcend her body and tap a motivational reserve is fascinating. In the third set, she sprinted out of the chair during changeovers, danced at the baseline and leapt into the air on the final point. “One more ball” and “keep moving” had to be in her head.

While this game is working now, one wonders when her body may fail her in protest. As a relatively young player, I wonder if she sees that her playing style, while successful and exciting, may limit her longevity?

Her coach did encourage her to come more to net and she did so with success later in the match. Her natural speed seems a great fit for the development of a strong, short court weapon.

In some ways, Svitolina may be living a teenage dream on tour with boyfriend Monfils. This sport is all-consuming and having a dedicated, supportive partner must bring an amazing lift. The pair both won this evening, so perhaps they shared a small celebration. Of the two, Svitolina has been the more focused and serious about her career, while Monfils has been more fancy free. It appears that together they achieve balance.

A quick note on Vondrousova. The 19-year-old stands out to me as an unassuming, focused, even-tempered player. Look at the list of players she dismissed at Indian Wells and tell me she does not have the power to take on the best: Laura Siegemund, Daria Kasatkina, Jelena Ostapenko and Simona Halep! These are home run hitters and great defenders. Expect to hear more from the Czech this year.

Friday’s Andreescu vs. Svitolina semifinal: The contrasting styles and their mental strengths should produce a match of thrilling complexity. It will be their first career meeting.

In the meantime, Thursday holds two more exciting quarterfinals: Belinda Bencic vs. Karolina Pliskova (first meeting) and Venus Williams vs. Angelique Kerber (Kerber leads head-to-head 5-3). My prediction is that anything is possible. In fact, that seems to be the mantra of the WTA tour. More players seem to have the “why not me” mindset. That is great for the sport. Both matches will be played in Stadium 1.

BNP Paribas Open Bianca Andreescu Elina Svitolina Garbine Muguruza Katerina Siniakova Marketa Vondrousova

Indian Wells PHOTOS: Andreescu, Svitolina advance to semifinals

The first semifinal pair is set in the bottom half of the BNP Paribas Open draw, as Bianca Andreescu and Elina Svitolina won their quarterfinal matches on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old Andreescu emphatically continued her surprise run at Indian Wells, crushing former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza 6-0 6-1 in just 52 minutes! The Canadian world No.60, who is set to make her Top 40 debut, is now bidding to become the first wildcard to reach the final at the Premier Mandatory tournament.

In the other Wednesday’s quarterfinal, the sixth-seeded Svitolina rallied from a set down and from a break down in the decider to prevent an all-teen semifinal by beating 19-year-old Czech Marketa Vondrousova 4-6 6-4 6-4.

Our photographer Jimmie48 attended the singles quarterfinals and the doubles quarterfinal victory of top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova over Kiki Bertens and Donna Vekic.


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