Growing tennis in Canada as interest in the sport increases
NEW YORK -- Bianca Andreescu, the Canadian comeback kid, was at it again Wednesday night.
And it earned her a spot in the U.S. Open women's singles semifinals.
The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., posted yet another come-from-behind victory in the quarterfinals, overcoming No. 25 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
She is the first Canadian to reach the final four in singles at the U.S. Open since Carling Bassett in 1984.
Andreescu looked incredulous as she looked over at her supporters after the win. And then she sat down, leaned over in her chair, and nodded her head and smiled.
"I said, 'Is this real life?' Twice. I couldn't really believe it at that moment," Andreescu said. "But then when I sat down, I just couldn't stop smiling -- just like I can't now."
"I think anyone would be shocked to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam, because all of us dream of this moment ever since we picked up a racket," she added. "I definitely think that I have fought really hard to get to this point, so I think I do deserve to be here and hopefully I can go all the way."
Coach Sylvain Bruneau said that Andreescu is still at a stage in her career when so many things are "firsts."
"You might get used to winning. But then the next match arrives, and you have to start all over again," Bruneau said. "Of course, she's confident. But she's still at the stage that when she wins matches like that, it's a first for her -- so there is still an element of surprise.
"She's a bit incredulous, because things are going so well. I think that's kind of what happened after the match."
It was the 12th consecutive three-set victory for the Canadian, who will square off against No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland Thursday night for a chance to reach her first U.S. Open final -- in the first U.S. Open of her young career.
"I practised with (Bencic) once in Toronto. I found that she takes the ball really early. She likes to be very aggressive. She has a very good serve. She moves pretty well, too," Andreescu said.
With No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina and No. 8 Serena Williams meeting in the other semifinal, the last five Rogers Cup Toronto women's champions will be represented Thursday night.
Williams won in 2011 and 2013, Bencic in 2015, Svitolina in 2017 and Andreescu last month.
The conditions were challenging for both players Wednesday. There was heavy humidity, stagnant air inside Arthur Ashe Stadium and bugs everywhere. Andreescu used the ice towel around her neck, hugged it to her face at times and ran it down her legs to try to stay cool.
The New York fans were late to fill up Arthur Ashe Stadium. Even deep into the third set, they were still entering and milling about in the lower bowl. There was a low-level buzz, a constant chatter, throughout.
None of it seemed to bother Andreescu.
"When I'm on the court in front of these big stages, I'm really good at just blocking everything and staying in the zone," Andreescu said.
In the early going, everything went right for Mertens, who clipped lines with regularity while unforced errors piled up for Andreescu.
She did her best to pump herself up, though. And she cleaned up her game significantly as Mertens's level dropped from the top-flight level she displayed in the first set.
Andreescu won just 22 per cent of the points on Mertens' serve in the first set. In the last two sets, she won more than half of them.
"I think Bianca made it a bit easier for her by making errors, so Mertens wasn't under much pressure on the scoreboard and in the rallies. But she played impeccable tennis in the first set," Bruneau said. "You just had to hope that Bianca recovered in the second set, changed things around. When you play an opponent like that who gives you nothing, you just have to dig in."
Andreescu has 43 match wins on the season between the WTA Tour, the Grand Slams, a lower-level Challenger event in January, and Fed Cup. Andreescu needed three sets in 17 of those wins. And of those, 10 came after she lost the first set.
"I think it was a good match, a very competitive match," Mertens said. "I think she was just returning better at the end. She was coming really into the match in the second and third sets."
Andreescu, who began her first career U.S. Open ranked No. 15, will leap into the top 10 when the new rankings come out Monday. She should end up no lower than No. 9 -- either Svitolina or
Williams, but not both, can still pass her. If she wins the tournament, she could jump to No. 4.
Earlier Wednesday, Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski, bowed out in the women's doubles quarterfinals. Dabrowski and partner Yifan Xu of China, the No. 3 seeds, were upset by the unseeded pair of Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia and Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.