Welcome to Sunshine Stories, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable matches from the North American spring over the past five years. Continuing our countdown from the 2019 edition of the BNP Paribas Open is Bianca Andreescu’s stunning, three-set upset over World No.6 Elina Svitolina en route to the final.
Keep scrolling for full-match highlights!
Indian Wells Rewind:
2015: Simona Halep d. Jelena Jankovic, final
2016: Victoria Azarenka d. Karolina Pliskova, semifinal
2017: Elena Vesnina d. Venus Williams, quarterfinal
2018: Serena Williams d. Zarina Diyas, first round
HOW THEY GOT THERE: Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu’s 2019 Indian Wells run from wildcard to champion is now a part of tennis lore. But last year, the tennis world was waking up to the 18-year-old’s fearless game.
Andreescu had quietly put in the best start of her career in the weeks leading up to Indian Wells. She announced herself to the tour at the ASB Classic in Auckland, fighting through three rounds of qualifying to reach her first WTA final. Ranked No.152, Andreescu defeated World No.3 Caroline Wozniacki - her first Top 10 victory - and No.6 seed Venus Williams along the way.
After winning at Newport Beach 125K and reaching the semifinals in Acapulco, Andreescu received a wildcard into the BNP Paribas Open. The Canadian made good and then some, putting together a head-turning run and following in the footsteps of Serena Williams (2015) and Kim Clijsters (2006), the only two previous wildcards ever to have reached the semifinals.
WHAT HAPPENED: Andreescu flew under the radar for much of the first part of the tournament, but that all changed when she handed Garbine Muguruza a 6-0, 6-1 beatdown in the quarterfinals. With the expectant eyes of the tennis world now focused on her, the 18-year-old took to Stadium Court against Elina Svitolina for a spot in the final.
Full of confidence and with momentum on her side, Andreescu was not afraid to mix up the pace and redirect shots - creating a great stylistic contrast to Svitolina’s solid counterpunching. But Svitolina seemed to have solved the puzzle, racing ahead to a 3-0 lead to start the match.
But just as she’d done all fortnight long, Andreescu fought her way back into it, breaking back to 3-3 after an audacious drop shot forced an error. She kept her run rolling, eventually winning 26 of the last 35 points to take the opening set, breaking at 5-3 before closing it out.
The World No.6 Svitolina raised her level, staying solid against a visibly tiring Andreescu, running the Canadian around the court and jamming her at the net to break for 3-1. Svitolina outlasted Andreescu in back-to-back marathon points to earn her another break again at 5-2 to level the match.
Locked into battle in a tight deciding set, Andreescu honed in on the Svitolina second serve to finally break the deadlock, unloading on a return winner to break for 4-3. A game later, she had to scrape back from 0-40 down, putting in a mammoth effort to hold for 5-3. But Andreescu’s calm cool was on full display as she closed out the biggest win of her career to date, going to the drop shot until the very end to seal the victory, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
WHAT THEY SAID: "I'm actually shaking right now," said an emotional Andreescu, to open her post-match press conference. "It's just so incredible. I'm honestly speechless, speechless."
Still processing the result, and visibly overwhelmed, Andreescu - the first wildcard to reach the Indian Wells final - talked through the match and how she got it done.
"This match had a little bit of up and downs," Andreescu continued. "I started a bit slow and then I picked it up after 3-0, thank God. Svitolina took control of the second set. I started missing more. Then in the third set I kept my composure, at least tried to. I pumped myself up...
"I went for it. Like I always say, I went for my shots. It was a crazy match. It was a roller coaster. I'm really happy I pulled through."
Andreescu was clutch in the crucial stages of the encounter by saving nine of the 10 break points against her in the final set, and breaking Svitolina twice out of her three chances in the decider.
“Ever since I was little, I was always changing the pace,” Andreescu explained. “I think I was just getting bored on the court so I was just trying everything, and it's been working ever since. I have been practicing it, and it's obviously throwing off a lot of players.”
WHAT IT MEANT: Another roller coaster three set victory over Angelique Kerber in the Indian Wells final propelled Andreescu to a landmark win and the first Premier Mandatory title of her career. Andreescu, who started the year outside the Top 150, finished the fortnight at World No.24.
Along the way, Andreescu matched the feat of the 2018 champion Naomi Osaka by winning her first WTA singles title as an unseeded player at Indian Wells. She also became the fourth unseeded champion after Serena Williams (1999), Kim Clijsters (2005), and Osaka.
"It's been a crazy ride," Andreescu said after the final. "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."
Andreescu would continue to follow in Osaka’s footsteps when she went on to lift her first Grand Slam trophy just a few months later at the US Open. But in between her Indian Wells run and the US Open victory, Andreescu spent a long time away from the courts with a ‘small tear’ in her right shoulder. She played just one match between Miami in March and Toronto in August - but when she came back, she made history again as the first Canadian to win the Rogers Cup title in the Open Era.
Andreescu’s dizzying highs and injury woes continued in 2019, qualifying for the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen but suffering a knee injury in her debut that had her withdrawing from the competition. The Canadian was still recovering from the same injury at the start of 2020.