Bianca Andreescu crouches to return serve.

Photo : @PorscheTennis

Going toe-to-toe with the world No. 4 was always going to be a tough task, and it ultimately proved too much for Bianca Andreescu in just her second match of 2022 as she fell to Aryna Sabalenka in the second round of Stuttgart in three sets.

However, given her seven-month layoff, the Canadian acquitted herself well against her powerful opponent, turning the tables after being overpowered in the opening set to force a decider before ultimately falling 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.

Andreescu had won her first match back on tour since Indian Wells last October on Tuesday when she beat Jule Niemeier in straight sets.

Sabalenka, the 2021 Stuttgart runner-up, brought her big power to this round two encounter, striking 29 winners and 21 unforced errors. Andreescu was broken five times on eight break points, hitting 14 winners while committing 19 unforced errors. She only won 52 percent of her total service points.

Andreescu was under pressure from Sabalenka’s big hitting right from the start, having to save a break point in her opening service game.

The world No. 4 kept coming and in the next game, after taking a 15-40 lead on the Canadian’s serve, she used her power to draw an error and take an early break. Sabalenka did not settle for just the one, continuing to attack and adding a second break of serve on her way to the opening set.

Persistence paid off early in the second set for Andreescu, whose crafty point construction began to break down her opponent’s powerful hitting. Coaxing Sabalenka into a series of errors, the Canadian broke serve twice as she raced out to a 4-0 lead in the second set.

Sabalenka would regain her footing and get one of the breaks back, but Andreescu was able to hang on to send the match to a decider.

However, Sabalenka found her rhythm again early in the third set. From 1-1, she won 10 straight points to go a break up at 3-1. Andreescu refused to go away quietly, holding four break points at 2-4, but the 2021 runner-up was able to serve her way out of trouble.

A game later, Sabalenka broke serve again to wrap up the victory.

Next up for Andreescu will be her first WTA 1000 event of 2022 in Madrid.