Bianca Andreescu reached the main draw of the 2019 Australian Open with a 6-0, 4-1 ret. victory over Tereza Smitkova on Friday when her Czech opponent withdrew with a lower back problem.
As for Peter Polansky (far side at top), he lost his bid for the main draw when he was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia. After his well-publicized, lucky losers Grand Slam in 2018, Polansky remains on course for a possible ‘LL’ at Melbourne Park. His name will now be placed in with the other three highest seeds who lost in the final round of qualifying. They will be drawn if any player (or players) withdraws before main-draw, first-round action is completed. But already Polansky has the odds against him because it has been determined by draw that he’s No. 4 in the pecking order. And it may be too much to expect four players to pull out.
If it’s a state of flux for Polansky, things could hardly have been more cut and dried for Andreescu. She won her opening qualifying round 6-1, ret. over Britain’s Katie Swan, her second round 6-4, 6-1 against Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece and then Friday’s victory versus the No. 137-ranked Smitkova.
Subtracting the 10 minutes it took for the trainer to arrive and then treat the 24-year-old Czech, the Friday’s match lasted 44 minutes. Added to 31 minutes with Swan and 67 minutes against Grammatikopoulou, that totals two hours and 22 minutes on court over three matches. That’s basically the equivalent of the time it takes for one fairly long singles match.
But after the eight matches (three of them in the qualifying) she played to be a finalist at the WTA International Series event in Auckland last week, Andreescu probably deserved a break.
“I don’t know what’s up with my opponents,” she said only half joking after Smitkova called it quits following two visits from the trainer, two days after Swan also had to stop with a back problem. “I hate winning like this. Like I said with Katie, I feel for her (Smitkova) and I just wish her a fast recovery.”
After yet another of her dominating performances, Andreescu said, “I just let loose and I went for my shots and I think that’s when I play well. That’s what I did today. So I’m really happy.”
“I knew that she also likes to go for her shots and she has a good serve,” Andreescu said about her knowledge of Smitkova before Friday’s match-up, “but that she can also be very erratic which showed today. I just tried to stay patient with my shots and use my serve and return as an advantage.”
Andreescu had a clean afternoon on the stats sheet on distant Court 20 – 12 winners and 10 unforced errors while Smitkova’s numbers were less flattering, nine winners and 25 unforced errors.
Looking ahead to the main draw, the 18-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., said, “I guess it’s nice getting some qualies matches in – you get used to the court, you get used to the environment. I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’m really looking forward to my first Australian Open main-draw match.”
It will be her second Grand Slam main draw after qualifying for Wimbledon in 2017, which proved to be a frustrating experience. In a subpar performance, the then 17-year-old lost 6-4, 6-3 to No. 105-ranked Kristina Kucova of Slovakia.
“I was so overwhelmed by everything,” Andreescu recalled about that Wimbledon. “But I think I’ve gained a lot of experience playing more on the tour.”
She kind of laughed before adding, “hopefully what happened at Wimbledon won’t happen next week.”
Her opening round will be against Whitney Osuigwe. The 16-year-old American was the 2017 ITF World Junior champion and also won the Roland Garros juniors that year. Osuigwe, ranked No. 199, is in the draw via an exchange of wild cards for their respective Grand Slam events by the USTA and Tennis Australia.
Andreescu’s exploits have been recognized in the tennis world and above she can be seen being interviewed on Friday by Australian John Pye of the Associated Press.
About all the messages of support she has received from Canada, Andreescu enthused, “it means the world to me getting so much support from home – and so much love is an amazing feeling. So thank you guys!”
While Polansky had a lot of ‘déjà vu all over again’ with his lucky loser exploits in 2018, on Friday ‘all over again’ meant something different – a similar result to his 6-3, 6-4 loss to Kokkinakis in the Brisbane qualifying a week ago.
A model of consistency from the baseline, Polansky might have been expected to do better in their longer rallies but that wasn’t the case in cozy Court 3 in the shadow of Rod Laver Arena.
“His forehand is so heavy,” Polansky said about the 22-year-old Aussie’s game. “It’s got a lot of rotation on it and he can crack it whenever he wants. And sometimes when he wasn’t hitting as hard, I wasn’t sure if he was going to pop it or just roll it in. Regardless, it was a tough match.
“He served really, really well, There was a lot of pressure on my serve in the couple of games that it got to 30-all or I served at 30-40. I felt a lot of pressure because if I lost those points the chances of breaking him were very low just because he was serving incredible.”
“I don’t think I felt that I should have been the more dominant per se on the baseline,” he said. “He played well, he’s confident and I thought I played well on my part except for a couple of points in those games that I got broken.”
The 6-foot-4 Kokkinakis hit 18 aces to five for Polansky. But more importantly Kokkinakis was 2/7 in break point opportunities while Polansky was 0/2. One of those came with his chance to get back to 4-all in the opening set. But, after a long, extended rally, Kokkinakis belted a forehand winner.
Summarising the 90-minute encounter, Polansky said, “it was a similar kind of match to last week – he served me off the court then too. I think we both played a little bit better – maybe one or two notches above last week.”
Polansky and Kokkinakis are friends who practice together frequently, which explains the good-natured interaction (below) post-match at the net.
Having turned being a Grand Slam lucky loser into something of an art form, Polansky was asked if most people don’t appreciate what it takes to even have a chance to be an LL. “I think so,” said the No. 10 seed in the qualifying, “especially I think last year I could have lost a lot of the first rounds. They were pretty close. A lot of people don’t realize you have to win two tough matches to get in that position and be pretty consistent throughout the year with your ranking to be in a seeding position. It’s all part of the fun. We’ll see how it goes now.”
As for how it goes, Polansky’s approach to the chances for a fifth Grand Slam lucky loser spot in a row is simple: “I’ve just got to wait and let fate take over.”
If it doesn’t, next for him will be the $150,000 Oracle Challenger Series event in Newport Beach, California beginning on January 21.
In Sydney’s world famous harbour, the most popular ferry is the one going across from the Circular Quay docks to Manly Beach. On a recent Saturday this young passenger couldn’t quite see over the edge so he settled for a makeshift porthole to take a look at what was going on out on the water.