INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 15: Bianca Andreescu of Canada returns a shot to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 15, 2019 in Indian Wells, California. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP
Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu will try to follow in footsteps of world number one Naomi Osaka on Sunday and cap a magical run at Indian Wells with a first WTA title.
Andreescu grabbed a slice of history when she became the first wild card to reach the women’s final in the California desert with her 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory over sixth-ranked Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
It was her ninth win over a top-50 player this year and an astonishing 27th match win across all levels for a player who came through qualifying to reach her first WTA final at Auckland in January.
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“It’s incredible,” beamed Andreescu, who recovered from 3-1 down in the third set to beat Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round then roared past Dominika Cibulkova and Stefanie Voegele in the second and third rounds with the loss of just seven games.
She then toppled 18th-seeded Wang Qiang before an impressive 6-0, 6-1 rout of former world number one Garbine Muguruza in the quarter-finals.
In Kerber she’ll be facing another former world number one, but the German hasn’t won a title since claiming her third Grand Slam crown at Wimbledon last year.
She was shocked by unseeded American Danielle Collins in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, but as she’s settled into a routine with a new coach Kerber reached the semi-finals in Doha in February.
“I have learned a lot, especially in the last few tournaments after Australia,” Kerber said, explaining that she’d made a conscious effort to narrow her focus to alleviate on-court pressure.
“That was actually the goal here, to play every single day the best I can play.
“It works so far,” added Kerber, but she knows in Andreescu she faces a talented player eager to make a name for herself.
Reminded that Japan’s Osaka had never won a tournament when she swept to the title last year, Andreescu was asked if she thought she was primed for a similar breakthrough.
“I think so,” the composed Canadian said. “I’m in the final — it’s definitely a starting point.”