More than 18 months after she won the title at the 2019 US Open, Bianca Andreescu will again play for a trophy.
In a semifinal match that began on Thursday night, finished in the wee hours of Friday morning and was packed with drama throughout, the No.8 seed came out victorious against No.23 seed Maria Sakkari, 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(4) in two hours and 42 minutes to advance to Saturday's Miami Open final.
"Against her, I had no choice but to run for everything that I could and just fight until the end because that's what she was doing. She was really taking control of the points a lot of the times. It was really tough, I'm not going to lie," Andreescu said on-court after the match.
"My whole game plan was to try and do that because I knew she was going to do that, and it could've been either of us winning. I'm just super happy that I pulled through."
Already a winner at Indian Wells, Toronto and New York in her career to date, Andreescu will look to add another big title on North American soil to her resume when she takes on World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, the winner of the last Miami event played in 2019, for the first time.
Momentum shifts abounded for the two players over the course of their first career meeting, as each was in position to win the sets that she lost.
Having saved two set points in the first-set tiebreak, winning a set where she led 4-1 early the long way, Andreescu built a set and a break lead — but later found herself four points from defeat late in the match's third hour.
Buoyed by the momentum from edging the opener, Andreescu opened up a 3-1 lead in the second set, breaking serve at 1-1 as Sakkari served up a double fault. Undaunted, the Greek flipped the script by playing relentless, physical tennis from the baseline, and secured five straight games and send the match to a final set.
Sakkari was the first to break serve in the decider, but her 4-2 lead soon became a 5-4 deficit as Andreescu refused to give in. Nonetheless, a love hold and a break from 30-0 earned the Greek an opportunity to serve for the match, and a place in her biggest career final.
She'd never get to match point, however, as Andreescu broke serve to love, and built a 6-2 lead in the tiebreak to secure a fourth three-set victory in five matches this week.
"I have a lot of experience in these tough three-setters and digging through and finding a way," Andreescu told reporters at her 3 am press conference. "Sometimes I literally feel like I'm an octopus out there running side to side, I feel like I have eight legs. It's insane. Sometimes I don't even know how I get to some shots. But it's that fighting spirit I have always had in me, never giving up.
"Through experience you learn to find ways to deal with circumstances like this. It's really showing. Me playing with my back against the wall really brings out my best tennis."
In addition to the fact that Andreescu and Barty have never played, Saturday's match will also be the Canadian's first career meeting with a reigning World No.1.
"It's everything," Andreescu said, when asked why she was looking forward to playing Baryt. "Her being No.1 and her doing really, really well. Her game style, as well. It's something I have never really experienced. I love a challenge, and I know she's going to challenge me on Saturday, so it's a mixture of everything.
"I know it's going to be really tough. She's playing great tennis, and I hope I can be on my A-game."