By Ros Satar at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells
- Angelique Kerber  v Bianca Andreescu [WC]
- A first Premier Mandatory title awaits the winner
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA – A maiden Premier Mandatory crown awaits the winner of the final between No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber and wild-card Bianca Andreescu.
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Angelique Kerber  v Bianca Andreescu [WC] | First Meeting
A year ago, the unseeded Naomi Osaka charmed everyone in the media and out in the stands alike on her way to claiming her first title here, and a Premier Mandatory to boot. This year wild-card Bianca Andreescu, who has impressed since the start of the year, will try and use it as the same platform.
Meanwhile it feels bizarre to see three-time Angelique Kerber bidding for a first Premier Mandatory title, with previous bests at this level on the tour being the semi-finals here in 2012-13 and in Miami 2016.
Angelique Kerber – Path to the final
- R1: BYE
- R2: Yulia Putintseva 6-0, 6-2
- R3: Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3
- R4: Aryna Sabalenka  6-1, 4-6, 6-4
- QF: Venus Williams 7-6(3), 6-3
- SF: Belinda Bencic  6-4, 6-2
It always seems that Kerber is never happier (!) than when she is having to come from behind, or battle through the match, and for a multiple Slam champion, she almost came though the field under the radar.
Her biggest challenge came at the hands of a first meeting with Natalia Vikhlyantseva. Kerber admitted it can be tricky to figure out an opponent for the first time, and the Russian had been maybe a little more match-sharp having come through qualifying.
Aryna Sabalenka was always going to be a tough proposition and proved it by setting back a quick start by Kerber to make it a fight to the finish. Those kinds of battles help build the German’s confidence – She made Venus Williams fight in the first set before being able to take control of the match, and her match against Belinda Bencic, who was coming in with a lot of form, showed just how relentless she can be in running everything down.
Bianca Andreescu – Path to the final
- R1: Irina Camelia Begu 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3
- R2: Dominika Cibulkova 
- R3: Stefanie Voegele 6-1, 6-2
- R4: Qiang Wang  7-5, 6-2
- QF: Garbiñe Muguruza 6-0, 6-1
- SF: Elina Svitolina  6-3, 2-6, 6-4
If Kerber’s season has kicked into gear in the spring, Andreescu has been blooming since the start of the year. Starting with a run from qualifying to the Auckland final in the season opener, and the Newport Beach title, she backed up the Acapulco semi-final with a run to her biggest final of her career.
She admitted that she thought she was going out in the first round, before she turned things around and came back from a set down to claim a slew of Top 20 scalps along the way. For Andreescu, there is no pressure, no expectation, and along with her philosophical approach to her matches and indeed her total game, she will not come into the final or a first time meeting with a former World No. 1 and indeed a current Slam champion with any type of awe.
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Preview & Prediction
Andreescu has a naturally aggressive style of play, but she also has learned to chuck in a ton of variety, she claims borne from her younger days when she tried everything out and threw them all into her matches.
Against players who prefer to hug the baseline or single-handedly stick to their style of play, she has proved to be a formidable wall. But if we are talking about immovable objects, step forward Kerber at her best. The German excels at running anything and everything down, all the live long day, and woe betide anyone who does not want to cover the yards on the court.
The one small concern maybe was that the stress of the semi-final saw Andreescu cramping up a little, and there has been a lot of tennis in the last two weeks for the teenager. If she thinks Elina Svitolina stressed her out getting everything back, wait until she comes up against Kerber, provided we get a peak performance from the German.
The last time Kerber won more than three matches in a row was at Wimbledon last year, on her way to the title. Above all she has the experience at this level that may prove to be the deciding factor. We saw Andreescu just tighten up a little bit in the semi-final, and in a way she was saved a little by Svitolina’s movement being compromised with a knee injury that has been causing her issues since the Middle-Eastern swing.
Prediction: Kerber in three sets.
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