Canadian teen Andreescu stuns third-ranked Wozniacki at ASB Classic

Louis Borfiga knew right away that Canadian tennis player Bianca Andreescu was a special talent.

Andreescu started playing at Tennis Canada’s regional training centres about six years ago and her strong skillset quickly blossomed. She’s 18 now and riding high after the biggest win of her career, a stunning 6-4, 6-4 victory over world No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday at the ASB Classic.

Borfiga, Tennis Canada’s vice-president of high performance and athlete development, said Andreescu has a complete game.

“When she was 14, she had this,” he said from Montreal. “She’s had some great coaches … the most important thing for me is to be ready for the Tour, and she’s ready for the Tour.”

Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., capped the second-round upset with a crosscourt forehand. She worked the veteran Dane from side to side and kept the pressure on before ending the 21-shot rally.

“She’s very good (with) cross-courts, to change direction, to change the speed,” Borfiga said. “That I think is the quality of Bianca. She can do a lot of things with her technique.”

In the second set, Andreescu saved three break points in a game with seven deuces to pull even at 3-3. Overall, Andreescu saved 83 per cent of break points.

After sealing the victory, she dropped her racket, bent down and put her hands over her head as she received a nice ovation from the crowd.

“Honestly, I can’t believe it right now,” she said on court. “I’ve dreamed of playing on this stage against top players and now I’m here. I’ve had a couple of back issues the past couple of months. I just fought until the end.”

The world No. 152 needed two hours 14 minutes to complete the victory.

“She’s something special in this game,” Borfiga said. “She has solid technique. She’s very solid on the technical side and for me it’s very important to have solid technique: forehand, backhand, good volleys. Now she needs to have more experience.

“But I am very, very, very optimistic for Bianca.”

Andreescu won three qualifying matches before topping Hungary’s Timea Babos 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the first round. The Canadian will face former world No. 1 and sixth-seeded American Venus Williams in Friday’s quarterfinals.

The US$250,000 WTA Tour event is a warmup for the Australian Open. Wozniacki won the Grand Slam tournament last year.

“I’ve pictured myself beating top players like this, and it’s really just a dream come true,” Andreescu said. “I know I have the level. (My confidence) skyrocketed like 20 times today. She was No. 1 in the world and won a Grand Slam. I just fought until the end. I was in the zone and at one point, I didn’t even know the score.

“I was really pleased with my performance. I tried to stay in the present moment, but at 5-4 in the second set, I really knew I had it then.”

It was the first time Andreescu had faced a top-10 player. The defeat for Wozniacki marked the lowest-ranked player she had lost to since 2013.

Andreescu, who lived in Canada and Romania as a youngster, won her first title on the lower-level Challenger series in 2016 in her first year as a pro.

She had a solid summer in 2017, qualifying for her first and only Grand Slam women’s draw to date (Wimbledon) and reaching the quarterfinals of the Citi Open in Washington with an upset of then-No.13 Kristina Mladenovic. Andreescu also won two junior Grand Slam doubles titles that year with Montreal’s Carson Branstine and added a pair of Challenger singles titles too.

Branstine said Andreescu is comfortable playing any style of tennis on any surface.

“She’s very athletic and she moves well around the court,” Branstine said from Orange County, Calif. “She competes unbelievably (well). She’s a full-package tennis player.”

Andreescu did hit some hurdles in 2018, dealing with injuries and inconsistent results. Before the season ended, however, she won two more Challenger events to build some momentum heading into the new season.

“When you start the year by beating Wozniacki, it’s so important for your confidence,” Borfiga said. “In tennis, confidence is so important. Also in her mind she can say, ‘I can do it now.’ When she plays a top-10 (player), she can say ‘I beat Caroline Wozniacki, OK now I can beat any player.”’

Fellow Canadian Eugenie Bouchard has also reached the quarterfinals. She will next face No. 2 seed Julia Goerges of Germany.

Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., is also in the doubles draw with American Sofia Kenin. They reached the semifinals with a walkover win over Russia’s Alexandra Panova and Germany’s Laura Siegemund.

———

With files from The Associated Press. Follow ↕GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

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