Bianca Andreescu is back into another WTA 1000 final – and it’s only her third tournament back.
In the comeback that continues to surprise (though it really shouldn’t, at this point), the Canadian Grand Slam champion overcame No. 23 seed Maria Sakkari 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(4) to reach the final of the Miami Open, where she’ll face World No. 1 and defending champion Ashleigh Barty for the trophy.
Andreescu got off to a lightning quick start to the match, holding to love with a statement combination of strong serves, a forehand winner, and a drop shot – in other words, vintage Bianca.
With her authority stamped on the match early, she overwhelmed the ever-tenacious Sakkari early, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after a break of serve in the fourth game fell her way. The Greek, however, wouldn’t go down quietly. Following a career-best victory over reigning US Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the second round, she had every reason to be confident in her ability to knock out the 8th-seeded Canadian in Thursday’s evening semi-final.
That confidence was clear as she quickly closed the gap in the match, capitalizing in a lull in aggression of the Andreescu groundstrokes and levelling the match at 4-4. Andreescu would stop the rot in the 9th game, mixing in bamboozling slices that the metronomic power of Sakkari struggled to handle.
On the back of an impressive first-serve percentage and giving the Canadian no further looks at break points, Sakkari brought the first set to a tie-break. Although it was Andreescu who would benefit from a lead in the score for most of the set-decider, Sakkari was the first to earn set points. Steely play from Andreescu warded off the danger, and on her first chance to claim the set, she did – with a stunning backhand winner cross court, nonetheless.
In the second set, Andreescu was the first to strike, missing out on three break points off frustrating return errors but benefiting from an untimely Sakkari double fault on the fourth, no doubt a result of the Canadian’s relentless return pressure – hit or miss.
Just two games later, hanging with elite defensive play from outside the doubles alley, Sakkari wrestled her way back into the match, securing her own break of serve to even the score in the second set, which she’d consolidate with ease a game later to go ahead 4-3.
In the blink of an eye, with Andreescu’s foot off the gas and struggling to hit through the speedy Greek, the set was Sakkari’s and the match levelled. Another three-set match this fortnight for the Canadian.
The third-set was a seesaw affair, with Sakkari securing the early break before Andreescu, low on energy but not on willpower, stormed back to win three games in a row and lead 5-4, one break of serve from the win.
That wouldn’t be the last momentum swing, however. The 25-year-old from Athens would match the Andreescu’s fire with a little bit of her own, stopping the run of games against her and move up a break of her own to serve for the match – and the biggest final of her career.
As we’ve come to expect from Canada’s first-ever Grand Slam singles champion, there would be no surrender. Playing her best tennis to break Sakkari to love, she sent the match into a thrilling decisive tiebreak, which she’d storm out to a quick lead in and never look back.
After two hours and 43 minutes of enthralling tennis, Andreescu was the winner.
With her late-night win on Thursday (technically Friday) in Miami, Andreescu improves her record on North American hard courts to 37-2 since the start of 2019, including titles in Indian Wells (her first WTA 1000 title), her home tournament in Toronto – the National Bank Open, and her first Grand Slam at the US Open.
Is the Miami Open next? We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon.