Andreescu Wins Three-Set Fight To The Finish

Bianca Andreescu (photo: courtesy of WTA video)

MIAMI/WASHINGTON, April 1, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Bianca Andreescu and Sara Sorribes Tormo had never met before their quarterfinal match at the Miami Open presented by Itaú. But they’ll not soon forget each other. Both brought immense qualities to Wednesday evening’s Grandstand tussle like their variety of shot-making abilities, plus their fearlessness to do whatever it takes to win.

Two nights ago, Andreescu registered her first Top 20 victory since beating Serena Williams to win the 2019 US Open champion, when she defeated World No. 13 Garbiñe Muguruza in the fourth round. Meanwhile, Sorribes Tormo was bidding for her 16th main draw win of the season, which would place her second in the WTA behind Muguruza. And, in Andreescu, Sorribes Tormo was taking on her third Canadian opponent of the month after facing Eugenie Bouchard and Leylah Fernandez, both in Mexico, having beaten the former while losing to the latter.

While Andreescu owned a 6-2 win-loss record in career WTA quarterfinal matches entering her match against Sorribes Tormo, the Spaniard had won a WTA tour-leading eight three-set matches this season. Any coincidence this tug-of-war would go three sets? You bet!

Andreescu and Sorribes Tormo battled tirelessly for two hours and 35 minutes, and in the end, it was Andreescu who didn’t throw away her shot. She hit a forehand winner on the 10th shot of a spirited, final rally to beat Sorribes Tormo, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. It advanced her into Thursday evening’s semifinal against No. 23 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, who earlier in the day upset World No. 2 and second seed Naomi Osaka of Japan, 6-0, 6-4. World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and World No. 5 Elina Svitolina will face off in the first semifinal Thursday afternoon.

“That girl can really run,” an exhausted Andreescu said during her on-court interview in complimenting Sorribes Tormo, with a towel draped about her neck while wiping the sweat from her brow. “After the first set, I was so tired.

“We both fought really, really hard. She’s an incredible fighter. I have no idea how I pushed through, but I fought as hard as I could. I’m just happy how it turned out. [Sara] played amazing, amazing tennis.”

Sorribes Tormo, who was bidding to reach her third straight semifinal after achieving that plateau in each of her last two tournaments in Mexico at Guadalajara and Monterrey, opened the match with a 3-0 advantage, thanks to a couple of breaks of Andreescu’s serve. The Spaniard placed 18 first serves in a row in play before she had to serve twice during the same point. Soon, Andreescu got one of the breaks back and consolidated it to trail 2-3. Then, after trading holds, Andreescu went to work and broke Sorribes Tormo in the eighth game with a forehand service return winner. Later, she broke Sorribes Tormo with a forehand winner to complete a four-shot rally that gave her the set 6-4 after 52 minutes of hard-fought play.

Next, the second set began with an incredible seven – count ’em, seven – consecutive breaks of serve that gave Sorribes Tormo a 4-3 lead. It was punctuated by Andreescu’s challenging the chair umpire over time violations against her on her serve that left her on edge. When Sorribes Tormo finally held serve in the eight game, winning a 23-shot rally, it boosted her energy and confidence. Then, she broke Andreescu for the fourth time to wrap up the 51-minute set after the Canadian netted a return on the third shot of the rally.

So, this battle of big ball strikers came down to one set, winner-take-all. Who wanted it badly enough? Since the start of 2019, Andreescu was 24-6 in three-set matches, while Sorribes Tormo had won seven straight three-setters. On serve at 2-all, Andreescu endured a 26-shot marathon rally that she lost, then broke on her third break-point opportunity to go ahead 3-2 after Sorribes Tormo hit a backhand beyond the baseline.

Andreescu followed it up by saving three break points and held for 4-2, then broke to go ahead 5-2 after Sorribes Tormo netted a backhand on the 11th shot of another tension-filled rally. However, Sorribes Tormo wasn’t done fighting. She broke Andreescu after the Canadian hit a forehand wide of it mark to trail 5-3. However, Andreescu saved some of her best for last and hit a forehand winner, her 42nd of the match, to cap a 10-shot rally that ended the quarterfinal battle and rewarded Andreescu with at least one more match in Miami.

Andreescu’s 42 winners and 42 unforced errors more than doubled Sorribes Tormo, who totaled just 17 winners and 21 unforced errors. There were a total of 17 service breaks, as Andreescu converted nine of 18 and Sorribes Tormo won eight of 17. Andreescu outpointed her opponent 92-84.

As these two warriors met at the net, Andreescu and Sorribes Tormo exchanged smiles and pleasantries reminiscent of a mutual admiration society. Just exactly what was said between Andreescu and Sorribes Tormo?

“She plays very different than most other players on tour,” Andreescu told Tennis TourTalk. “She’s difficult to play because of that. You don’t always get the same rhythm. She gets to a lot of balls. I told her, ‘Girl, you can run! You’re crazy!’ I told her she played amazing and that we’re going to be seeing a lot of you. She just said ‘thank you and good luck.'”

Bautista Agut tames top seed Medvedev

Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, at age 32 the oldest left in the men’s draw, defeated World No. 2 and top seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia, 6-4, 6-2, in one hour and 32 minutes Wednesday night to reach the semifinal round, where he will take on 19-year-old Jannik Sinner of Italy.

Against Medvedev, Bautista Agut won 69 percent (27 of 39) of his first-serve points, saved all three of the break points he faced and converted three of seven break-point opportunities against the Russian. He outpointed Medvedev 69-53.

“Well, I think I did a lot of things well, no? To beat Daniil in two sets, it’s because I played great tennis. I was very solid and I could play with a lot of rhythm, make him work a lot,” Bautista Agut said during his virtual press conference after the match. “Physically I felt well on the court. It was a tight first set. It was a great match from my side.”

Bautista Agut and Sinner, who will meet on Friday, faced off in Dubai two weeks ago, won by Sinner 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

What they’re saying

Jannik Sinner on being focused and concentrated toward achieving his goals: “You know, obviously my family are very calm persons. When I came to Riccardo Piatti (his coach) when I was 13 1/2, it’s all about work in progress. So, you know, if you win matches or if you lose matches, at the end of the day you always have to improve.

“As I said before, especially when you’re 19 and all the rest, honestly, I am focused about, yeah, improving my tennis, my physical. Especially physically I have to improve very, very much. Mentally as well.

“I’m just looking forward to getting better day after day and, yeh, that’s for me the most important thing.”

Alexander Bublik on his conversational handshake exchange at the net with Jannik Sinner after their quarterfinal match Wednesday afternoon:

“You know, I asked him if he’s a human or not, because for me, like from myself, it’s very surprising that the guy at his age have this mental toughness that, you know, many, many other players don’t have. I called him a robot couple of times during the match, but I do it in a very sincere way becausehe’s really, really a great player.

“I was very surprised that again I played him in a very crucial moment in the tiebreak, he developed some incredible shot and pulled off some incredible two shots when it was 5-4. Yeah, I mean, every time when I had a big point, either I need to go super crazy like I was doing it with the forehand and just, you know, shot that goes in with five-percent chance, or he’s playing like really unbelievable.

“So that’s why I ask him if he’s even a human. He asked me if I’m a human. Of course, I am. I make double faults when I’m breakpoint down because I get a little bit tight.

“Yeah, definitely, that’s what I meant.”

What they’re sharing on social media