Friday, March 15, 2019 - Bianca Andreescu plays Elina Svitolina in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Stadium 1 the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. (Jared Wickerham/BNP Paribas Open)
Bianca Andreescu’s coming-out party continued on Friday night at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The 18-year-old Canadian became the first wildcard to reach the BNP Paribas Open women’s final, stunning No. 6 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, in Stadium 1.
“I really need a moment to soak it all in,” said Andreescu, who’s into the second WTA Tour final of her career, but her first at the Premier Mandatory level. “It’s been so incredible this past week. When I meditate, I visualize myself after the match as the winner. Today I just believed in myself.”
Andreescu got off to a slow start in the opener, broken in her first two service games to fall behind, 3-0. But the supremely confident baseliner, the draw’s last remaining wildcard, would soon return the favor, reeling off six straight games to hijack the set in just 33 minutes.
Cheered on by a flag-waving crowd from north of the border, a vociferous one that has had plenty to cheer about in the desert thanks to the efforts of Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic, Andreescu opened the second set with yet another break, her fourth of the match.
However, Svitolina, a first-time semifinalist, was in it for the long haul. She had already been pushed to three sets on three occasions in Indian Wells. The 24-year-old would grab breaks in the second and fourth games of the second set to pull even.
As she did in the second, Andreescu opened the third with a break, only this time she was able to consolidate. By taking control of the points, dictating play and throwing in the occasional moonball and dropshot, she often kept the Ukrainain Svitolina off balance. She would need four match points to close it out, but finally made good at the two-hour, 12-minute mark.
Coached by Sylvain Bruneau, Andreescu’s run in the desert has been Naomi Osaka-like. Ranked No 60 coming into the tournament she rallied from a 3-1 third-set deficit to overcome Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round. She eased past 32nd seed Dominika Cibulkova in the second round. And after an upset of No. 18 seed Qiang Wang, she absolutely steamrolled No. 20 Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, 6-0, 6-1.
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In all, she would convert six of 12 break points against Svitolina in the semis. After finishing 2018 ranked No. 178, she’ll move into at least the Top 35.
Despite the loss, Svitolina will return to the Top 5 on Monday, when the new WTA rankings are released.