Andreescu Wins, Withdraws From Strasbourg

Bianca Andreescu (photo: Internationaux de Strasbourg video)

STRASBOURG/WASHINGTON, May 25, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 7 Bianca Andreescu had just won two clay-court matches at the WTA-level for the first time in her career. By the end of her 65-minute, 6-1, 6-4 victory over 259th-ranked qualifier Maryna Zanevska of Belgium, the 20-year-old top-seeded Canadian seemed happy-go-lucky to be advancing to the quarterfinal round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg in this northeastern French city located at the border with Germany.

During her on-court interview following her second-round victory, Andreescu said: “I think I played really good tennis today. Just like in my first round, I wanted to go out there and give 100 percent, stay focused from the beginning to the end, and that’s what I did. So, I’m super happy.”

However, instead of looking forward to a day off while awaiting the winner of Wednesday’s second-round match between No. 6 seed Zhang Shuai of China, ranked 45th, and No. 61 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, Andreescu made an unexpected announcement during her virtual press conference that stunned reporters. She said she had decided to withdraw from the Strasbourg event as a precaution with an eye toward being able to be healthy enough to play in the upcoming French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“I will be pulling out of my next match because I did feel a little bit of an ab tear – just a little bit – and I don’t want to push it at all for the French Open. I don’t want to take any risks, so I have to pull out. Nothing serious, though,” Andreescu said matter-of-fact, interrupting her answer to a question posed by Tennis TourTalk about how her win today compared with Monday’s – what was she pleased with as well as what disappointed her. “Yeah, just a little discomfort.”

Tennis TourTalk asked Andreescu if the injury was something that happened during today’s match. She comfirmed it occurred today. “In the second set, it was getting a little more intense, obviously. I did feel some discomfort.”

Andreescu had prefaced her surprise announcement by saying: “The conditions were changed. There was rain, there was wind, more bugs! So, that was a little bit of a challenge, but dealt with it very well. … I’m super happy with the win today.”

After dominating the 24-minute first set by opening a double-break lead, Andreescu worked her way out of trouble in the second set in which she was broken in consecutive service games to face a 4-2 deficit. However, Andreescu was determined to right the course against Zanevska and did just that. She broke her Belgian opponent in the seventh game and consolidated the break to draw even at 4-all. Then, Andreescu broke again to surge ahead 5-4 and served out the match with a love hold and the victory.

Andreescu hit two aces to just one double fault, won 69 percent (22 of 32) of her first serves and converted five of five break-point opportunities against Zanevska.

“Super disappointing having to pull out but the tennis I played in the two matches was really, really good. I executed everything exactly how I wanted to. … So, I’m really happy with these two matches before the French,” Andreescu said.

After Andreescu’s initial announcement about withdrawing, she was asked if she had considered waiting until Wednesday to see if she might feel well enough to play her quarterfinal match on Thursday. She said: “No, I’ve done that in the past and it just never goes my way.”

Pegula ousted in Strasbourg first round

Arantxa Rus has struggled to find her footing this season, both on hard courts and on clay. More recently, however, the 30-year-old Dutchwoman is beginning to turn her game around.

On Tuesday, fighting through chilly, windy conditions on Patrice-Dominguez Court at the Tennis Club de Strasbourg, the Netherlands’ Rus pulled off an upset of No. 2 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, 6-4, 6-4, to move into the second round of this WTA 250-series red clay tune up for the French Open. The victory improved her win-loss record in all competitions to 10-11, while it was a disappointing loss for Pegula, who dropped to 21-9 after reaching the fourth round in Madrid and being a quarterfinalist in Rome two weeks ago.

Earlier this month, Rus dropped down to play an ITF Challenger 60K in La Bilbao D’Emporda, Spain, to work on her game and build her confidence. She reached the title match before losing 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (8) to Irina Khromacheva of Russia. The time off the WTA tour seemed to have helped her – and it showed in her dismantling of Pegula.

In Strasbourg, the left-handed Rus converted five of the 11 break-point chances she had against the 29th-ranked Pegula, the highest-ranked opponent she’s beaten this season, and won 52 percent (33 of 63) of her return points. She won on her first match-point opportunity after the American hit a backhand long that capped a final 16-shot rally.

“I’m really happy with the win here today,” Rus said during an on-court interview. “I played really good tennis and I worked really hard the past few weeks practicing. [On the court] I felt quite good. I’m trying to play every point [my best]. It’s cold, windy, I was just focusing on just moving every time. If you don’t move with the wind, it’s not easy.”

Rus outpointed the struggling Pegula 69-56 to win just her fourth WTA main draw match of the season. It advanced her against France’s Harmony Tan, ranked 151st, who defeated No. 67 Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium, 6-4, 6-4. Rus will be looking to win back-to-back matches for the first time in 2021.

Rogers-McHale: A shame there had to be a loser

It last three hours and 23 minutes – and took 264 points to decide – but seventh seed Shelby Rogers won an all-American battle against Christine McHale, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 7-5, to move into the second round against qualifier Jule Niemeier of Germany.

It’s a shame there had to be a loser in this one because both the 46th-ranked Rogers and No. 95 McHale were deserving to win. After missing a match point in the second-set tie break, Rogers lost a 4-1 lead in the third set. Then, the South Carolina native regrouped and converted her eighth break point in 15 opportunities to go ahead 6-5 after saving a match point a game earlier during a 12-point 10th game to hold for 5-all. Finally, Rogers served out the victory against McHale and the two shared a long, warm hug at the net.

Rogers overcame 11 double faults and six breaks of her serve en route to her first win in over a month. Sheoutpointed McHale 136-128 to break a three-match losing streak on clay covering her last three tournaments.

Rogers shared her thoughts about the match on her social media platforms afterward.

Around the Tennis Club de Strasbourg

• In a first-round matchup of former Top 30 juniors, 216th-ranked qualifier Jule Niemeier of Germany defeated qualifier Diane Perry of France, ranked 307th, 6-4, 6-3, to gain her first WTA main draw match win. It advanced the 21-year-old German from Dortmund against No. 7 seed Shelby Rogers of the United States.

Earlier this month, Niemeier won a $25K clay-court tournament in Prague, coming from qualifying all the way through the main draw. She qualified in Strasbourg with earlier wins against Bianca Turati of Italy and Andrea Petkovic of Germany. In all competitions, Niemeier is now 21-8.

Magda Linette of Poland, ranked 48th, advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals when her opponent, No. 65Alizé Cornet of France retired in the middle of the second set of their second-round match due to a hip injury. Linette led 7-6 (2), 3-0, when Cornet was unable to continue. She will play the winner of Wednesday second-round match between No. 4 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan and Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann.

What they’re saying

Eighteen-year-old Dianne Parry of France is part of a new generation of French players that includes Clara Burel, Chloe Paquet and Elsa Jacquemot. All of them have appeared this week during the Internationaux de Strasbourg. “We hope to improve our game to be the best we can. The future looks good.” Parry has received a wild card into next week Roland Garros main draw. “I will give everything I have on the court. It would be great if I can win. I will try to play my best tennis.”

Tuesday’s Internationaux de Strasbourg results

Wednesday’s Internationaux de Strasbourg order of play