Canada’s Andreescu advances to Rogers Cup final after gruelling win over Kenin

TORONTO — Bianca Andreescu dropped to her knees and covered her face in visible relief before kissing the Aviva Centre’s hardcourt after advancing to the Rogers Cup final.

The 19-year-old from nearby Mississauga, Ont., held on for a 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory over Sofia Kenin of the United States on Saturday afternoon. Andreescu said the emotional display was automatic after a gruelling second set that had her face five match points.

“All the emotions I had during that tiebreaker, I think my body just wanted to let it all out,” said Andreescu. “It’s just so incredible that I’m in the final of the Rogers Cup. I had zero expectations coming into this tournament.”

It’s Andreescu’s first tournament after a right-shoulder injury sidelined her since the French Open in May.

She’s now won 16 consecutive matches where she has not retired due to injury, including victories over six of the top 10 players in the WTA. Her world ranking will raise from 27th to at least 19th on Monday.

Saturday’s win was Andreescu’s first match this week that did not go three sets. She has been on the court more than any other player at this year’s Rogers Cup at 10 hours 54 minutes.

All that playing after a lengthy layoff has taken a toll. Andreescu needed to have her legs wrapped and taped during the second set of a gritty quarterfinal win over Karolina Pliskova on Friday.

She was taped up again for the semifinal against Kenin, the last woman to beat Andreescu in a full match at the Mexico Open in Acapulco back in February.

“Just with all that I’ve been through. The past couple of months have been so so so so tough,” said Andreescu about her post-match celebrations. “Just being able to be here right now is truly incredible.”

Andreescu is the first Canadian to make the Rogers Cup women’s final in 50 years. Faye Urban of Windsor, Ont., beat Vancouver’s Vicki Berner in the 1969 final, when the tournament was still played on clay courts and called the Canadian Open.

“For sure there’s some pressure, but I have nothing to lose, really,” said Andreescu. “We’ll see how it goes. I’m just going to try and stay in the present moment.”

She’ll play the winner of the second semifinal between American Serena Williams and Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.

Andreescu brought her drop shot back against Kenin after rarely employing it against Pliskova. Her most deft use of the light touch came in the eighth game of the first set.

She telegraphed going for an overhand smash but then just tapped the ball to drop her shot neatly in bounds. Kenin banged her racket off the net in frustration as the Aviva Centre crowd roared its approval.

That partisan crowd did affect Kenin’s concentration.

“I don’t play in those kind of conditions, so it’s not like I can practice,” said Kenin. “I didn’t want to pay attention to that. I knew it was going to happen, so it wasn’t like a shock.

“I obviously expected this. I tried to just block it out and do the best I can.”

Another drop shot sealed the first set for Andreescu. Kenin was able to return the Canadian’s first drop shot on set point but Andreescu was in perfect position to send another one right back, to the delight of the fans.

Kenin held her first lead of the match in the second set when a series of unforced errors by Andreescu gave the American a 2-1 advantage.

Andreescu responded, however, by winning four consecutive games. She took a 4-2 lead on the set when a sure-fire winner by Kenin clipped the net and landed out of bounds. Andreescu then rolled to a 5-2 lead before Kenin finally took a game point back.

Despite the vocal support of the sold-out crowd, Andreescu struggled to close out Kenin, putting several shots into the net to virtually hand two game points to the American and tie the set 5-5.

Andreescu finally saved on love to take a 6-5 lead when Kenin’s return on her serve went wide.

After that point Kenin asked for a medical timeout and left the court to be attended to by a trainer. Andreescu sat calmly with a towel draped over her face with only her hair bun poking out during the three-minute break.

That set up a lengthy game that went to seven deuces and stretched to nearly 13 minutes of play, with neither player able to finish the other off.

Kenin finally got lucky in the seventh deuce when her forehand clipped the net and fell just in bounds for advantage. Andreescu’s return on the next point went into the net to set up the tiebreak.

Andreescu doubled over in frustration when her perfectly lined-up forehand smash went long, returning the serve to Kenin and making the tiebreak 5-4. Although Andreescu argued with the umpire on the next point when a shot was out, she still returned the shot and got a point to make it 6-4 on the tiebreak.

“I try to channel that pressure into something good,” said Andreescu. “I think it pumps me up even more. Really having the crowd behind me this week, I’m thankful for that because without their support I don’t think I’d be in the final.”

Kenin got a point back, but Andreescu’s backhand winner sealed the match and brought the Canadian to her knees.

After kissing the hard court Andreescu lay on her back, crying and covering her face. After speaking with an on-court reporter she found her parents in the crowd for a lengthy embrace.

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