PARIS, France - Level at two sets apiece as the sunlight faded in Paris, No.22 seed Bianca Andreescu completed a hard-fought comeback on Tuesday in her darkness-suspended clash against lucky loser Marie Bouzkova to claim her first main draw win at Roland Garros, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
The surprise Indian Wells champion, 18-year-old Andreescu came into the clay Grand Slam with minimal preparation on the surface, and with questions swirling on the state of her game and mentality: she hadn’t played a match since retiring in the fourth round of Miami with a right shoulder injury more than two months ago.
The on-the-rise Canadian started off the year with an appearance in the final of Auckland, before claiming titles at Newport Beach 125K event and the Premier Mandatory Indian Wells - defeating Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina along the way. But injury has kept her out of most of the clay court season - her favorite surface - and making her return to action at Roland Garros.
“I'm not going to lie. This wasn't one of my best matches at all,” Andreescu admitted in her post-match press conference. “I was getting pretty mad at myself.
“But, I mean, it's my first tournament back after an injury, so I tried to stay as calm as possible. And I'm just really proud of how I fought through the match with the tennis I had.”
Andreescu’s high-octane game earned her five break chances in the first two Bouzkova service games, but the Canadian couldn’t capitalize as Bouzkova refused to give her opponent an inch. The Czech was stingy with the errors and winners, forcing Andreescu to go for bigger shots - and drawing out the unforced errors as well.
The pair traded breaks later in the set, with Bouckova rallying back to level the score at 4-4. Andreescu’s frustration mounted as she saw two more break points come and go, and a meek backhand into the net sealed the decisive break - and the opening set - for her Czech opponent.
But Andreescu, whose improbable Indian Wells run included several spectacular comebacks, was undaunted. Whereas the first set was decided on a few decisive breaks of serve, the second featured nine consecutive breaks of serve as both players brought out their best returning game.
As the light faded in Paris, Andreescu scored the first crucial hold of the set at 6-4, forcing a deciding set just as the match was suspended due to darkness.
Upon resumption on Tuesday, both players came out of the gate firing - Andreescu put together an early break to lead 1-0, but Bouzkova quickly erased her lead with a break of her own in the next game. They stayed similarly toe-to-toe in the games that followed, trading baseline blows and trading breaks once more, Andreescu breaking first and Bouzkova leveling in the next game, 4-4.
But Bouzkova couldn’t keep up with Andreescu as the set wound to a close, and a final Andreescu break put her ahead 5-4. The Canadian served it out with confidence, sealing her victory after a hard-fought three hours and two minutes.
“Put the ball in the court,” Andreescu said, revealing the key to her third set turnaround. “Because I was missing a lot and she was getting every ball back. So my main objective was to just construct the point and get the right opportunities to go for my shots.”
Up next, Andreescu will face Sofia Kenin, who defeated qualifier Giulia Gatto Monticone, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, to advance yesterday. Their head-to-head record is level at one win apiece.
“I played her twice this year already, once in Acapulco, and Miami,” Andreescu said. “So I have a really good sense of how she plays, not on clay, though. I don't think I've ever played her on clay, but I know it's going to be a tough match.
“She gets to a lot of balls as well. She's a fighter. So I'm going to do the same thing. I'm going to put a lot of balls back in the court, play my game, and fight till the end.”