Win Or Lose In Stuttgart, Andreescu Excited To Be Playing Again

Bianca Andreescu (photo: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix)

STUTTGART/WASHINGTON, April 19, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Bianca Andreescu is back on the tennis court and that’s a good thing.

The 121th-ranked Andreescu, winner of  the 2019 US Open, began her 2022 season at the WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win against 108th-ranked German wild card Jule Niemeier in Stuttgart Tuesday evening.

In her comeback match, Andreescu hit six aces and 22 winners to 17 unforced errors, won 70 percent (35 of 50) of her first-serve points, converted three of four break-point opportunities and outpointed Niemeier 76-65.

The 21-year-old Canadian decided to delay the start of her season in order to address mental health concerns. Now, after nearly seven months away from the WTA Tour and after completing a seven-week pre-season training block, Andreescu said during a Media Day session with reporters that she’s returning to competition feeling refreshed and with a renewed appreciation for the game of tennis.

“I’m being really honest here, but I actually wanted to quit the sport,” the former World No. 4 Andreescu told the WTA Insider Monday, on the eve of her return. “It was really bad. I am privileged in a way for having this opportunity and doing all of this. Now, I’m very grateful, more than ever. So, I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, you’re a little baby, just suck it up.’ But it was an accumulation of two-and-a-half years. A lot had happened and I just didn’t want to deal with anything anymore.

“So, I realized that I really do love the sport and I do want to continue, but not just to win Grand Slams, or to do this and that. I want to do something bigger in the sport and I want to help contribute to a better world as well. I realize that tennis is my way toward that.”

Andreescu’s 2021 season was an abbreviated one – cut short both by injuries and in dealing with her mental well-being – after missing all of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and healing from a lingering injury suffered at the end of the 2019 season. Andreescu finished last season ranked 46th after compiling a 17-13 win-loss record. Her most recent competition came last October at Indian Wells when she lost in the third round to Anett Kontaveit, while her last match on clay occurred during a quarterfinal run at Strasbourg prior to the French Open.

“I never really felt like I was completely ready [to come back],” Andreescu told reporters. “I’m not sure that anyone is for sure ready for something.

“But I just felt like my time off was enough. I kind of got tired and bored of not challenging myself on the court. I really missed that fire that I had competing and pushing myself. So, I think that was when I thought it would be good to start playing again.”

Although the unseeded Andreescu looked sluggish and took her lumps during the 67-minute opening set against Niemeier – broken in her second service game followed by a messy tumble on the clay during the ninth game that left her backside sporting red dirt the rest of the match – she looked glad to be back in a competitive setting. Things got better as the match progressed. At 3-5 (40-ad), Andreescu saved a set point with her fourth ace, then broke back a game later to level the set at 5-all. It was game on for Andreescu, who battled back and fought for every point. She eventually came through to garner the set in a scrappy tie-break 7-5.

Then, Andreescu parlayed a break of Niemeier’s serve in the third game of the second set and made it stand up to the very end. Andreescu won the one-hour and 45-minute first-round match with a variety of solid shots and in her ability to attack. She played well under pressure. It was an encouraging win for the native of Mississauga, Ontario, who next will face No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus on Thursday.

“I’ve developed a stronger passion for the game,” Andreescu admits. “I realized that I truly love the sport. …

“My goal right now is just to enjoy myself and give the best that I can and prepare the best way I can for the French Open,” said Andreescu. “I’m not really thinking about results like I did in the past. But I don’t want it to take a whole year until I start playing my best tennis again.”

Memorable moment for Lys in upset win over Golubic

Qualifier Eva Lys made her WTA main-draw debut Tuesday afternoon in Porsche Arena – and it was a memorable one that the 20-year-old won’t soon forget. The 342nd-ranked Lys, a Ukrainian-born German who now resides in Hamburg, battled through three sets to beat No. 38 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, in three hours and nine minutes – which tied for the fourth-longest WTA main draw match this season. She hit a forehand winner – her 34th winner of the match – that capped an eight-shot rally on her first match-point opportunity.

After securing match point, Lys dropped her racquet, crouched down and cradled her head with in her hands. Then, after raising herself back up, Lys made a heart sign with her hands and smiled to the crowd in celebration of the biggest win of her young career and her first against at Top-50 opponent.

Golubic is the highest-ranked opponent Lys has ever faced (previously, it was then-No. 92 Oceane Dodin of France in an ITF event in Hamburg last year). The Porsche Talent Team member knew going in she had some serious work ahead of her. However, it was evident from the start of the first-round match that Lys was up for the challenge. After all, she already had won two rounds of qualifying over the weekend just to earn a berth in the 28-player main draw. So, Lys was certainly used to the red clay surface inside Porsche Arena.

Against Golubic, Lys overcame 44 unforced errors and nine breaks of her serve and outpointed her opponent 126-119. Golubic finished with 29 winners but committed 50 unforced errors. Lys broke Golubic’s serve 10 times in 27 opportunities.

Next, Lys will play World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland Wednesday afternoon in the second round – and with it, another great challenge awaits the young German.

Around the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix

Tamara Korpatsch of Germany, a lucky loser inserted into the main draw to replace Italy’s Jasmine Paolini (right knee injury), pulled off an upset of No. 30 Camila Giorgi of Italy. The 118th-ranked Korpatsch of Hamburg won, 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1, to advance against either No. 8 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain or 197th-ranked qualifier Storm Sanders of Australia, who play Wednesday.

• No. 7 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia rallied from a set down in her first-round match against 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. However, once she did, she went on to win, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, in an hour and 40 minutes to advance against No. 26 Daria Kasatkina of Russia. It was the third time this season that the World No. 10 Jabeur has come back to win after losing the opening set.

The World No. 10 Jabeur, who was a finalist on green clay two weeks ago in Charleston, S.C., fired her second ace of the match down the middle on match point to secure the victory over No. 32 Vondrousova, who won both of her Billie Jean King Cup singles matches last weekend against Great Britain. In her Stuttgart debut, Jabeur hit 35 winners to 27 unforced errors and broke Vondrousova’s serve three times. She outpointed her opponent 89-73 and improved to 5-1 on clay this season and 13-6 overall.

• World No. 19 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan held off the charge of 18-year-old German qualifier Nastasja Schunk to win, 7-6 (3), 7-5, in two hours and three minutes and advance against No. 2 seed Paula Badosa of Spain.

The 224th-ranked Schunk, born in Mainz, was making her third career WTA main-draw appearance. She also played at Stuttgart in 2021 and at Miami last year. Against Rybakina, Schunk hit 17 winners but made 50 unforced errors, which was a difference maker in the outcome. She converted two of nine break points but was broken three times by her opponent. Rybakina outpointed Schunk 93-86.

• World No. 26 Daria Kasatkina of Russia recovered from being down 0-4 to 16th-ranked American Coco Gauff at the start of their first-round match, then came on strong to win 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 19 minutes. Kasatkina took advantage of six breaks of Gauff’s serve and won 59 percent (37 of 63) of her return points. Kasatkina outpointed her opponent 62-47.

Tuesday’s Porsche Tennis Grand Prix results

Wednesday’s Porsche Tennis Grand Prix order of play

By the numbers

Through the Aces for Charity campaign, Porsche will donate 100 euros for every ace hit during the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix to benefit refugees from Ukraine. After Monday’s main draw matches, 24 aces had been hit.

“Quotable …”

World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek