Andreescu pulls off great escape at Miami Open

Reuters, MIAMI

Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 16

Canadian teenage sensation Bianca Andreescu on Thursday pulled off a Miami Open great escape by fighting back from a set and match point down to beat a dazed Irina-Camelia Begu 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2 in the first round.

The 18-year-old who stunned the tennis world last week by winning her first career title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, raised eyebrows again with a gritty and spirited comeback that underscored her status as a rising star.

Only three women — Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka — have completed the “Sunshine Double,” winning both Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back, and Begu had looked ready to make sure Andreescu would not add her name to that list.

With 28-year-old Romanian Begu a set up and leading 5-1 in the second the Canadian appeared headed for an early exit, but refused to go down quietly.

Fighting off a match point at 5-2, the steely nerved teenager went on the attack by unleashing a barrage of drop-shots and laser forehands to sweep five straight games from her crumbling opponent to force the second set into a tiebreak.

By then the damage had been done, with a distraught and flustered Begu meekly surrendering the tiebreak.

At the changeover the 70th-ranked Romanian slumped into her chair and hid under a towel in an attempt to regain composure, but when the action resumed little had changed as the surging Andreescu opened the deciding set with a break.

It proved to be the death blow from which Begu never recovered as a ruthless Andreescu closed out the contest in business-like fashion to book a second-round meeting with Sofia Kenin of the US.

The victory was a promising omen for world No. 24 Andreescu, who two weeks earlier beat Begu in a tough three-setter in the opening round at Indian Wells to spark her run to the title.

There was no such drama for third-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova, who breezed into the third round with a straightforward 6-1, 6-4 victory over Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

Three-time Miami Open champion Venus Williams was also in good form, lighting up Center Court by easing past Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic 7-5, 6-3 as both the sun and the fans returned to the tournament.

After two days of almost constant rain, Williams’ match on the 13,800 temporary stadium court kicked off a busy day as organizers scrambled to get back on schedule after rain washed away three of the first four sessions.

Trailing 5-4 in the opener, Williams stepped up a gear to sweep the next six games, breaking three times to claim the first set, before jumping 3-0 ahead in the second.

In the first round of the men’s singles, 17-year-old Taiwanese wild-card Tseng Chun-hsin fell to a 6-4, 7-5 defeat to world No. 41 Joao Sousa of Portugal.

Additional reporting by staff writer