After Gap Year, Andreescu Happy To Be In Miami

Bianca Andreescu (photo: courtesy Miami Open presented by Itaú video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, March 27, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The last time Bianca Andreescu played a North American hard-court match was the night she beat Serena Williams, 6-3, 7-5, to win the 2019 US Open. It was her first Grand Slam title – and, looking back at everything that’s happened since, it seems an eternity ago.

In 2020, Andreescu took a gap year, so to speak, to recover from an injury she suffered at the 2019 WTA year-end championships in Shenzhen, China. Then, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the WTA for five months in March of last year. When the tour resumed in August, it did so without the personable Canadian.

“I was super-lucky I was able to get [2019] under my belt before the pandemic,” Andreescu said earlier this week before the start of the Miami Open presented by Itaú, quoted by the WTA website. “Watching myself play, I kept remembering what I was capable of. It gave me motivation and inspire me to keep pushing.”

On Friday, the 20-year-old World No. 9 Andreescu returned to action for the first time since the second week of the Australian Open fortnight, where she reached the semifinals in the Phillips Island Trophy event after losing in the second round of the year’s first major. Andreescu defeated 105th-ranked qualifier Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, 7-6 (5), 6-2, winning on her first match-point opportunity in one hour and 54 minutes.

Andreescu hit 30 winners but also committed 30 unforced errors, twice as many as Martincova. The victory improved her season win-loss record to 5-2. In the third round on Sunday, she faces No. 28 seed Amanda Anisimova, who defeated fellow American Sloane Stephens, 6-3, 6-3.

During her post-match virtual press conference, a relaxed and upbeat Andreescu playfully bantered with a small group of international media, suggesting to one that because of how the global pandemic has changed everyone’s lives, she’s missed going to concerts.

Meanwhile, Tennis TourTalk asked Andreescu what she was most proud of from her first Miami win since 2019. She said: “I felt really good mentally out there. That’s the one thing I feel like I was struggling a little bit in Australia, but I was just super positive and I fought for every ball no matter what the score was. Because in the first set [Tereza] had set point, but I just kept fighting, and I think that was the thing I was most proud of.”

Andreescu told Tennis TourTalk that last year she was mentally and physically focused and ready for Indian Wells, a tournament she had done well in during 2019, then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. She did not compete at all during 2020. Then, she returned for the Australian Open last month only after enduring a strict quarantine because someone on her flight from Dubai tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Melbourne.

Looking back at the year off, Andreescu said: “It was good and bad in a way. I took a lot of time off just to reset and to take in everything that’s been happening to me and also took care of my body well. I was able to spend more time with my friends and my family, which is very rare, because as a tennis player you’re traveling all year round. So that was good.

“But it stopped my momentum, and I made a tough decision not to play the rest of the year as well. But I think it was the best decision, so I can’t really say I regret anything.

“Now, this is a situation I’m in, so I’m going to take it as much of in a positive way, and I think I’m doing that well. I think everything is coming together.”

Later, during the virtual press conference, Andreescu took a moment to reflect. Different year, different conditions, not a lot of fans, but the Canadian is grateful to be healthy and playing.

“I haven’t played in a long time and it’s my third tournament back,” she said. “So it’s a little bit different, but once I continue to play matches, I know I’m going to get back into the groove of just being back on tour.

“I’m feeling really good. Like today I felt really good. I’m super proud of myself with how I handled everything. Even the heat. I was lucky to play fourth today, I think it was, especially for a first-round match. Well, second round, but my first match just to get used to everything.

“It’s not my favorite weather to play in, but I thought I dealt with it really well. My feet were burning at one point, but that’s another story (smiling).”

Ruusuvuori stuns No. 3 seed Zverev

Unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, stunned third seed Alexander Zverev from Germany, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, to reach the third round in his ATP Masters 1000 debut. The 83rd-ranked 21-year-old, who defeated #NextGenATP rising Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz earlier this week, earned his first Top 10 victory of the year against the World No. 7 Zverev. It was just the second of his young career, after beating Dominic Thiem in Davis Cup play two years ago.

Ruusuvuori finished with 23 winners and 36 unforced errors, while Zverev’s double-digit numbers read: 20 winners and 40 unforced errors. Ruusuvuori broke Zverev’s serve six times in 18 tries while being broken five times. He outpointed his opponent 81-73 to move into the third round against No. 95 Mikael Ymer of Sweden, who defeated No. 27 seed Nikolas Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Tennis TourTalk asked Ruusuvuori during his virtual press conference what he’s been most proud of during his two wins in Miami – against Alcaraz and Zverev. He said: “Well, in the first one, just the fact that I won it. In the end I was able to win the match and get the chance to play a guy like Zverev in the second round.

“I mean, I got the chance also last week, and it’s very good when you can have these chances this often. Today then I was able to find a way, and of course I’m really proud that I got the win.

“So, yeah, just doing things right like making the changes. I didn’t start well today and just making the changes. Then mentally was pretty good in the end, so that’s something I can be proud of.”

And what does it do for his confidence going forward after a big win over Zverev? “Well, of course it does a lot. [Sascha’s] a player, great player. He came from a tournament win. Of course, you can say he was a little down physically and I was able to pick it up and use my chances, but of course it does a lot, these two good wins. Yeah, going into the third round, it makes a difference.”

Around the Hard Rock Stadium

• Men’s top seed Daniil Medvedev easily defeated Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan 6-2, 6-2 for his 15th victory of the season. He did so by striking 24 winners and losing just four points on his first serve to win in a tidy 56 minutes. It’s the first time Medvedev is the top seed at an ATP Masters 1000 tournament. Now, he’s into the third round against young Aussie Alexei Popyrin.

“When you start to be good, you want to promote your sport in your country. … I’m really happy that I have a lot of wins this year,” Medvedev said during his virtual press conference.

• World No. 4 Sofia Kenin won her first match since returning from surgery to remove her appendix following her disappointing Aussie Summer Swing, which included losing in the second round of the Australian Open. Friday night, Kenin hit 44 winners and broke her 107th-ranked opponent, Germany’s Andrea Petkovic‘s serve six times, en route to a 6-7, 6-1, 6-3 victory in a second-round match.

“I’m obviously happy with this win. It feels nice to get the win after some time not being on court, playing at tournaments,” Kenin told Tennis TourTalk during her virtual media chat. “It was very humid. I’m obviously used to this since I live here, but conditions weren’t so easy. I’m happy that it wasn’t at least windy. I was able to somehow like try to play my game.”

Next, she will face No. 27 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the third round. Jabeur struggled in the late-afternoon heat to beat No. 71 Paula Badosa of Spain, 7-6, 5-7, 7-5.

Friday’s Miami Open results – WTA

Friday’s Miami Open results – ATP

Saturday’s Miami Open order of play

Is it tennis … or is it poetry?

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain improved to 13-5 with her 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 13 seed Jennifer Brady of the United States. The 58th-ranked Spaniard overcame Brady’s 32 winners by hitting 14 of her own and breaking the Australian Open finalist’s serve seven times.

Next, Sorribes Tormo will face No. 21 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who defeated No. 64 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, 6-4, 6-0.

Tennis TourTalk caught up with Sorribes Tormo during her post-match virtual press conference and learned the Spaniard is proud of her work ethic, which has contributed toward her winning her first WTA singles title two weeks ago in Guadalajara and beating a Top 20 opponent in Brady.

“I’m proud of … working all the match. Don’t stop fighting. I stay there no matter what, no matter the score,” she said.

“Yeah, I’m just super happy about that, because I think that’s something I need to do. I can’t stop fighting. I have to fight until the end.

“I think today was one of the best matches I played. I’m 100 percent sure. I don’t want to say it’s the best match I played, but I’m sure it’s one of the best.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic announced she is pregnant. Idle since the Australian Open, the former doubles World No. 1 announced the good news on her social media platforms on Friday.

Strycova wrote on Twitter: “I used to hate getting baker products (bagels mainly) on court. However now, when there is a little bun in the oven, I couldn’t be happier!”