Bianca Andreescu reached the quarter-finals of the 2019 US Open early Tuesday morning with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 victory over Taylor Townsend.
Her 23-year-old American opponent, a qualifier ranked no. 116, was a revelation at this year’s event after ousting Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in the second round. Townsend put up an impressive fight against Andreescu in the second set, following a one-sided opener where she failed to hold her serve.
In the third set, after both players left the court at the conclusion of the second, Andreescu quickly re-assumed control – jumping out to a 5-1 lead on the way to closing out the one hour 55-minute match.
There were some blips for the Canadian, such as her five double faults in the first set as well as a crucial double fault on set point where she would go on to lose the second set, but she took them in stride as if she were a seasoned professional.
In her post-match media conference, she sounded like an old pro who’s not content with reaching the quarter-finals – even if this is only the fourth Grand Slam event of her career and that she has now won four matches, two times more (one round at this year’s Aussie Open) than she had when the event began a week ago.
“I am really happy, but the tournament’s not done yet,” said Andreescu, who’s assured of $500,000 US in prize money. “I think I can do even better than get to the quarters here this year.”
When pressed if she expected to win the title, she replied, “every tournament I go into, I want to win it. Yeah, I expect a lot from myself – ‘yes’ to answer your question. But I’m going to just take it match after match because I know I have a lot of tough opponents before I reach the final. I’m just going to enjoy this moment right now and hopefully I can win on Wednesday (against no. 26 Elise Mertens of Belgium).”
Andreescu is up to no. 9 in the ‘live’ WTA rankings and – let’s get way ahead of ourselves! – she would likely be no. 4 if she winds up being the woman holding the trophy on Saturday.
On Monday night, in a match that started at 10:45 p.m. on Arthur Ashe Stadium after Rafael Nadal needed four sets to overcome Marin Cilic, Andreescu was able to neutralize the atypical style of tennis that Townsend plays, which sees her often coming to the net and rushing opponents – whether it be with approach shots or serving-and-volleying.
“She doesn’t give you any rhythm whatsoever,” Andreescu said about the left-handed American. “She’ll hit a flat ball, then a spin and a slice. She’ll come to the net. In those moments I just tried to keep up with her, make sure to put pressure right from the start of the point with my serve, with my return.
“I think I did that pretty well in the first and third set. After the second set, that’s what I told myself, just to make sure I put my first serve in the court because I know she was going to attack my second serve. I double-faulted (eight times) a lot.
“I think my return also helped me today a lot.”
That was an understatement – it was so good that Townsend won only four of 16 serve-and-volley points. Several other stats paint a picture of the night, and morning, with the match ending 39 minutes after midnight. Andreescu won 70 per cent of her first-serve points to just 48 per cent for Townsend and, for all Townsend’s undeniable skill at the net, Andreescu had a success rate of 17 of 26 (65%) for her net points to 16 of 40 (40%) for her opponent.
As for the Townsend side of the result, her coach Donald Young Sr. said about his player, “I think under the circumstances, under the conditions, she fared well. I wish it was in the daylight because she’s a morning person. This was hard on all of us because we’re not used to being here this late.”
Andreescu was a little more agitated than in her previous matches. Maybe that was because of the way the draw opened up earlier in the day when her prospective semi-final opponent, defending champion Naomi Osaka, was upset by Belinda Bencic or because of the boisterous, loud, decidedly pro-Townsend crowd that rocked a cavernous Ashe Stadium – an arena with the roof closed that started out about half full and gradually emptied out to fewer than a quarter full as the bewitching hour approached and passed.
Leading 1-0 and trailing 15-30 in the second game of the final set, Andreescu accidentally ended up with her racquet flying out of her hand from near the baseline and looping in the air and landing near the net not far from the umpire’s chair. She received a warning.
“The time my racquet flew out of my hand was not me throwing my racquet,” she later explained. “It slipped. I meant to hit the ball to the other side.”
Regarding the partisan crowd, she said, “it wasn’t easy. But I heard some Canadian fans here and there, which was nice – especially in tougher moments.”
Heading into Wednesday’s quarter-final against Mertens, a semi-finalist at the 2018 Australian Open and the current no. 7 player in doubles, Andreescu could not be in a better place having won her 21st completed match in a row dating back through four tournaments to March 2nd in Indian Wells. “I’m just taking the momentum from Rogers Cup (last month in Toronto) into this tournament,” she said. “This year has been the best year of my life so far. I’ve never felt this confident before.”
About facing 23-year-old Mertens, she said, “she takes the ball pretty early from what I’ve seen. She tries to put pressure on right from the start of the point. She’s pretty aggressive. I know she has a pretty decent serve, too. She fights really hard.
“I’m just going to go out there and play my game because it’s been working the last couple of months.”
As for the lean, 5-foot-10 Mertens, a thoroughly orthodox player compared to an Andreescu or a Townsend, she said about facing the 15th seeded Canadian,
“Andreescu has an all-around game. She’s on fire when she’s on the court. It’s going to be really tough.”
As for being the only player remaining on her side of the draw who has been to a Grand Slam semi-final, she added, “I kind of feel like I’m in there for a reason. I wouldn’t say that I’m the senior in the draw, the bottom of the draw. No, I wouldn’t say that. We’re all good players.”
There was a strange moment before the match when Townsend did not go to the baseline to begin hitting in the normal style of a traditional warm-up. Instead she planted herself at the net and began volleying Andreescu’s ground strokes.
It did – and didn’t – take Andreescu by surprise. “I was warned,” she said, adding with a smile, “I told my coach we should both be at the net right from the start…see what happens. (But) I totally forgot about that. But yeah it’s different.”
It was also different when Townsend (below) got out a skipping rope and did some skipping on court while she waited for Andreescu to return from a bathroom break that both players took at the end of the second set.
Finally, now that Andreescu is looking like the real deal and is likely to be around for a while – it time to establish a uniform pronunciation of her name, similar to what happened with Denis ‘ShapoVALov.’
Is it “An-dray-ess-ku” or “An-dress-ku?” It is the latter. “I don’t like the double ‘e,’” she said as she walked to her media conference on Monday night (early Tuesday morning).
So the correct pronunciation would simply be “An-dress-ku.” As for the first name, she had already explained on Saturday that she has several names that she goes by – starting with ‘Bibi.’ “My mom would always call me that when I was younger, but I think people just caught on,” she said. “I don’t know. Because of my name starts with a B, I guess it’s easier to find nicknames. People call me B, Bibi, some people call me Flying B, Queen B, Roller Coaster B because of what happened in Toronto (at Rogers Cup). But honestly, whatever you guys want to call me, call me.”
Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa is the only Canadian left in the doubles draw – but only in the women’s doubles, after she and Croatian partner Mate Pavic, the second seeds, were upset Monday in the mixed doubles quarter-finals 2-6, 7-5 [10-4] by the unseeded veteran pairing of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray.
On Sunday, Dabrowski and partner Xu Yifan of China reached the women’s quarter-finals with a 6-3, 0-6, 6-1 victory over Germans Anna-Lena Friedsam and Laura Siegemund.
The third seeded pair will play Viktoria Kuzmova, 21, of Slovakia and Aliaksandra Sasnovich, 25, from Belarus on Wednesday.
A year ago at Flushing Meadows, Dabrowski and Xu, then the fourth seeds, were ousted in the second round 6-2, 7-6(2) by Aussie Sam Stosur and Zhang Shuai of China.
Mélodie Collard of Gatineau, Que., advanced to the second round of the junior girls singles on Sunday with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Chloe Beck, 18, of the U.S. In the second round, the 16-year-old Collard will face Russian Daria Frayman, 17.
In the boys singles, no. 10 seed Liam Draxl of Newmarket, Ont., defeated Nini Gabriel Dica, 18, of Romania 6-3, 6-2 in his opening match on Sunday. The 17-year-old Draxl, who is attending the University of Kentucky, will next play Arthur Fery, 17, of Great Britain in the second round.
Taha Baadi, 18, of Laval, Que., begins his tournament against ninth-seeded Gauthier Onclin, 18, of Belgian on Tuesday.
There are plaques recognizing USTA donors, as well as others paying tribute to some of the US Open’s great champions, imbedded in the “Avenue of Aces” walkway in front of Louis Armstrong Stadium near the east entrance. We’re not quite certain how it was determined that Fraulein Graf has different first names on the separate plaques.
(Feature Photo: Mauricio Paiz)