Bianca Andreescu, of Canada, returns a shot from Maria Sakkari, of Greece, during the Miami Open tennis tournament Thursday, April 1, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Wilfredo Lee

Canadian Bianca Andreescu wins marathon over Sakkari to advance to Miami Open final

Canadian Bianca Andreescu wins marathon over Sakkari to advance to Miami Open final

MIAMI — Canada’s Bianca Andreescu is heading to the final of the Miami Open after yet another three-set victory, but she’s not convinced she played her best tennis to do so.

The eighth-seeded Andreescu fought back from a break down twice in the third set to beat No. 23 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (4) in a rain-delayed match that finished at 1:35 a.m. ET on Friday.

Andreescu has won her past four matches in three sets and has won six three-setters in a row overall. Eight of her 11 matches this year have gone the distance.

“Today, I don’t feel I played my best tennis, but I found a way somehow and I’m super proud of myself with how I dealt with everything,” she said at a press conference after her marathon match.

The Canadian will face top-ranked Ash Barty of Australia in the final of the WTA 1000 event on Saturday. It will be the first time the two have faced off against one-another.

Barty beat No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3, 6-3 in the first semifinal on Thursday.

“It’s everything,” Andreescu said when asked for her reaction about playing Barty. “Her being number one and her doing really, really well, her game style as well, it’s something I’ve never really experienced. I love a challenge and I know she’s going to challenge me on Saturday.”

Andreescu finished Sakkari off on her third match point of the tiebreak. She took charge by taking two points in a row off Sakkari’s serve to go up 5-2.

The Canadian double-faulted for just the second time in the match on a pivotal point, giving Sakkari a break to go up 6-5 in the third set. But Andreescu broke right back without dropping a point to send it to a decisive tiebreaker.

Thisis Andreescu’s third tournament back after a 16-month absence in the aftermath of a knee injury. She’s trying to recapture the form of her breakthrough 2019 season when she won three tournaments, including the U.S. Open.

“I feel okay, physically I feel totally okay,” she said about the short turnaround between the conclusion of Friday morning’s semifinal and Saturday’s final.

Sakkari broke Andreescu to go up 3-2 in the third set, but couldn’t hold the lead.

The Canadian tied it at 4-4 with her own break. Andreescu ran down a shot before Sakkari hit one wide to finish the game.

Sakkari rallied from a break down to win the second set.

Andreescu’s consistency dropped as the set went on with several unforced errors leading to the decisive break that put Sakkari up 5-3.

Sakkari tied it at 3-3 with her first break of the second set, running down a forehand to stay in the game before overpowering Andreescu with some aggressive shots.

Sakkari had 10 winners in the second set, eight more than the Canadian.

Andreescu looked to be in trouble early in the match but saved two break points to hold serve, then broke her opponent for the first time to go up 3-1.

But she was unable to seize control when she fired a backhand long to give the break right back on her next service game, and 33 minutes in the Greek had it back to 4-4.

Sakkari wouldn’t go away, but Andreescu went shot for shot and saved two set points before finally putting a backhand past her opponent to take the first-set tiebreaker, which took one full hour to complete.

“Me playing with my back against the wall really brings out my best tennis,” Andreescu said.

Andreescu returned from her 16-month layoff in February at the Australian Open, losing in the second round of the Grand Slam.

The 20-year-old Canadian followed that up by reaching the semifinals of an event in Melbourne for players eliminated early from the Australian Open, but a leg injury suffered there kept her out until Miami.

Andreescu entered Thursday night’s match 32-1 in North America since the start of 2019.

She attributed part of her success in North America to her friends and family being able to attend her matches.

The 25-year-old Sakkari ended No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka’s 23-match unbeaten run with a 6-0, 6-4 win over the Japanese player in the quarterfinals.

In her previous match, Sakkari fought off six match points in a win over American Jessica Pegula.

Sakkari had a career record of 2-9 in semifinals heading into the match against Andreescu.

All four Canadian men have been eliminated in the singles draw.

In women’s doubles, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos face No. 8 seeds Luisa Stefani of Brazil and Hayley Carter of the U.S. in a semifinal on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Tennis

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