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Canadian Queen of the Desert: Bianca Andreescu is the BNP Paribas Open Champion

Sunday, March 17, 2019 - Bianca Andreescu during the Women's Singles Championship trophy presentation at the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)

by Jeff Donaldson
03/17/2019

The BNP Paribas Open 2019 has its women’s singles champion.

Bianca Andreescu of Canada’s dream run came to a dream finish on Sunday afternoon in Indian Wells, as she upset a second consecutive Top 10 player to claim the trophy. She defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reign supreme in a high-quality final, worthy of the packed crowd there to witness it.

Andreescu becomes the first-ever wild card to win the BNP Paribas Open and, at 18 years old, the youngest player since Serena Williams defeated Steffi Graf here back in 1999. She inherits the crown from current world No. 1 Naomi Osaka, who went on to claim two Grand Slams in the year following her triumph in Indian Wells.

“It’s incredible to have my name beside so many incredible champions,” Andreescu said. “It’s a dream come true.”

How will she celebrate? “Nothing has sunk in. I don’t know what’s gonna happen tonight, but hopefully I will, because I have another tournament in, like, two days!”

As she’s done all week, Andreescu rocketed out of the gates to start the match. She broke Kerber in the German’s opening service game, quickly consolidating for a 2-0 lead. The sole break would be all the 18-year-old would need, as she dictated play with her heavy forehand groundstrokes to keep Kerber both off balance and increasingly frustrated. After 41 minutes of play, the first set belonged to Andreescu, sealed with a delectable forehand winner and a booming, “let’s go!”

Sunday, March 17, 2019 – Bianca Andreescu plays Angelique Kerber in the Women’s Singles Final of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)

The former world No. 1 wasn’t about to roll over, however, and a couple of brilliant shots off the forehand wing would allow her to find a comfortable rhythm as the Canadian’s focus began to waver. Pressured for the first time on her serve, Andreescu would surrender a break of serve in the fourth game. Despite holding a lengthy eighth game to stay in the set, a couple of close calls in the following game would go the way of Kerber, earning the 31-year-old the second set to bring proceedings into a decider.

Endeavoring to play the match on her own terms, Andreescu upped the aggression to start the final set, attacking off her forehand wing as she was doing earlier in the match, all while throwing tactical, top-spun moonballs to push Kerber further back into the court. The Canadian would take a medical timeout on the first changeover to deal with an apparent arm issue, dropping serve in her next service game on the back of an inconsistent 50 per cent first serve percentage.

Sunday, March 17, 2019 – Angelique Kerber plays Bianca Andreescu in the Women’s Singles Final of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)

“I want this so bad,” admitted Andreescu to her coach on the next changeover.

“You need to push. Go out there keep competing every single ball,” he replied. “Mind over body.”

And suddenly, Andreescu found her legs. She’d break back in the next game and race off to a 5-3 lead in the final set, courtesy of massive hitting and clarity of shot selection. Serving for the title, she came within a point of the match three times, only for Kerber to come back each time to save match point with tenacious defending.

All of a sudden, Kerber was back in it. Andreescu was cramping. It was all happening on Stadium 1 court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

After a quick rubdown from the trainer at the next changeover to combat the muscle tightness, Andreescu kicked her tennis into overdrive, hitting her forehand harder than she had all match to bring up a fourth championship point. Then, her entire run in the southern California desert came to a perfect culmination – a backhand error off the Kerber racquet. The trophy was hers.

An incredible week of women’s tennis came to a close as Canada’s Andreescu fell to the court in jubilation. Her rise began at the start of the week after coming back from a set down to advance past the first round – and now she’s the champion.

“You never know what next week can bring,” assessed Andreescu after the match. “Maybe I’ll have a bad day. Maybe my opponent will play unbelievable. But if I go out there and play my best, then I have no pressure. I think the only pressure that comes to me is the pressure I put on myself.”

Sunday, March 17, 2019 – Bianca Andreescu reacts to winning the Women’s Singles title at the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Michael Cummo/BNP Paribas Open)

 

 

Spoken like a true champion. Bianca has risen.

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