By Ros Satar at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells
- Bianca Andreescu [WC] def. Angelique Kerber  6-4 3-6 6-4
- First wildcard to win and youngest winner since Serena Williams in 1999.
INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA USA – Bianca Andreescu made history as she beat three-time Slam champion Angelique Kerber to the BNP Paribas Open title
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Bianca Andreescu [WC] def. Angelique Kerber  6-4 3-6 6-4
Kerber’s propensity for short balls dropped perfectly into the hit-zone of the Canadian early on, with a topping of double faults to sweeten the deal for a break immediately at the start of the match, as Andreescu leapt out to a 3-1 lead.
From that slow start, Kerber was at least keeping in contention with Andreescu who kept her first break advantage all the way to take the first set, leaving a vexed Kerber ranting at her coach in between sets.
The start of the second set looked a little more solid from Kerber, but still the pressure was relentless from Andreescu who saw two break point chances come and go as Kerber started to make the exchanges a lot more physical. Kerber took her chance to break the teen and hold, now starting to read the drop-shots and burn the Canadian with winners down the line.
Andreescu by now looked as though she was having to dig deep, as she battled to force Kerber to serve out the set.
The third set was a real battle of wills. Andreescu was looking like she was flagging yet still could fight tooth and nail for a hold. The Canadian walked on to court with a taped shoulder which needed a medical timeout at the first changeover. Kerber was starting to make the exchanges more physical again in a bid to grind Andreescu down.
Another tired looking double fault and dumped forehand in the net brought Kerber a brace of break points. Saving one with a nice hint of controlled aggression but netting another shot handed Kerber the break that would allow her to breathe just a little easier.
Andreescu admitted to her coach that her feet were burning and struggling to see what she could against Kerber who was, in her words, getting to everything. The pep talk seemed to work as she put Kerber under pressure and responded in the best way by breaking straight back.
It was now Kerber’s turn to feel the pressure, as winners flew past her, and got herself back in front again in the decider. Yet it was fitting that this match would still have a twist in the tail. Having pegged the youngster back to level the final set, she broke Andreescu as she was serving for the match, saving three match points as the teenager struggled once more with cramp as she tried to close it out.
It was fitting though that Kerber had to be broken on the fourth match point as Andreescu quite literally collapsed over the line for the win.
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Kerber on the rebound
The reigning Wimbledon champion admitted that the last few weeks have been a struggle – the results have been fair to middling, and this tournament signified her best run of wins since she claimed the title at SW19.
She said: “I was not expecting two weeks ago to playing here in the finals, especially after the last few weeks where I was a little bit struggling. So that’s why I’m happy about this tournament and that gives me a lot of confidence.
“Also, today, the match, it was a good one. I know that I have still few things to learn and to doing better the next time. But, yeah, I mean, in a few days we have another tournament and, yeah, it’s starting again from zero.”
‘Mind over matter’
The talk throughout the tournament has been Andreescu’s use of creative visualisation (not to mention yoga and meditation). So had she used those techniques since claiming a spot in the final?
Andreescu said: “Yes, I did [use creative visualisation]. Not only this morning but so many times. It’s crazy to think that it became a reality today.”
However, it is not just about seeing yourself with the trophy all smiles. For the second time in a row she struggled with cramp in the key moments – which might be something she has to work on.
“It always happens during the match points but somehow my body pulled through. But, yeah, I do visualise myself in tough situations like that, so that definitely helps.”
It has been a real rollercoaster, not only on the court but also the whole process of press conferences, and she admitted after her semi-final that she was speechless before of course being as engaging as always.
She continued: “I was actually really dizzy in the locker room because just there were so many thoughts and emotions going through my body. I had a good ice bath, which I think calmed me down a bit.
“It’s been a crazy ride. Truly a Cinderella story. Naomi did this last year. And now to be able to have my name in front of so many amazing champions is — it means the world to me.”
Indian Wells is fast becoming the tournament that launches the career of young stars. After all in the past year, the unseeded Naomi Osaka won this as her maiden title, before going on to win two grand slams.
Andreescu said: “It’s definitely inspiration seeing her claim the trophy last year and winning two Grand Slams right after that has been amazing to see.
“I don’t really want to focus on the future right now. I just want to enjoy this moment, because I don’t want to take anything for granted. You never know what next week brings. I just want to savour this.”
Andreescu will once more face Irina Camelia Begu in the opening round in Miami, with a possible third round encounter with none other than Kerber!
The Miami Open takes place between 20-31 March
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