NEW YORK, New York - 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu made a winning return at the US Open, coming back from a break down in the third to defeat Viktorija Golubic, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in a late-night first-round finish. The No.6 seed was made to battle by 45th-ranked Swiss, who led by a break in the first and third sets before Andreescu mounted a trademark comeback to win her eighth consecutive match at the US Open.
Andreescu was unable to play the US Open and defend her title last fall due to injury. The 21-year-old told reporters before the tournament that stepping foot back on Arthur Ashe Stadium and walking around the bowels of the biggest tennis venue in the world helped rekindle the excitement surrounding her return this year. Her 2021 season has shown glimmers of her dizzying 2019 form. In the spring she advanced to the final of the Miami Open and played a pair of good matches three weeks in Montreal, where she lost in the Round of 16 to Ons Jabeur in three sets.
"I definitely haven't had a lot of matches in but I feel very comfortable playing on this court," Andreescu said after the win. "I'm able to go back to the feelings that I had in 2019 and that confidence a little bit more than other tournaments, maybe it's the court, the tournament, all of that.
"I channeled a lot in the match and honestly, it was super, super close. It really came down to a couple of points. I just fought the hardest, honestly. It could have gone both ways."
In Golubic, Andreescu was facing one of the most improved players on tour. The 28-year-old Swiss is in the midst of a career-best season, which includes her first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon and run to the silver medal in doubles in Tokyo. Riding a career-high at No.45, Golubic was primed to be a stern test for Andreescu, who told reporters she was still searching for her match rhythm.
How the match was won: Andreescu played a solid opening set but it was Golubic who built a 5-3 lead after converting the only break point she had in the set. The Canadian responded by winning nine consecutive points and then coming through a 14-minute game that went to deuce seven times to break Golubic for the set.
"She was playing incredible tennis," Andreescu said. "She was getting to many balls, she was really putting the ball in the court, it was incredible. For me I just really wanted to step up my game and try to be better than that, kind of play her at her own game - not so much with rhythm, but with power - and I think that really helped."
At 2-2 in the second set and before she was set to serve, Andreescu asked to see the physio and doctor. After complaining that she was feeling unwell, Andreescu was given a tablet and play continued, but Golubic finally broke through at 4-4 to earn a chance to serve for the set. Andreescu kept the pressure on and earned a break point in the 5-4 game, but yanked a backhand wide and Golubic coolly closed out the set.
Break point chances came fast and furious early in the deciding set, but both women stood tall to the challenge. After failing to break Golubic in the second game, Andreescu wiped out three break point chances to hold to 2-1. But after a quick love hold, Golubic finally broke through the Andreescu serve for a 3-2 lead. Facing Golubic's relentless baseline pressure, Andreescu unforced error count began to rise and the Canadian found herself two games away from an early exit.
Andreescu & Golubic are 🔐'd in. pic.twitter.com/OqfoVBykhg— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2021
But Andreescu stayed with her aggressive gameplan. She hit three unforced errors to help Golubic earn the break, but two games later stepped up to hit three clean winners to break at love to tie the match at 4-4. After holding to 6-5, Andreescu broke Golubic to seal her comeback as the clock struck 12:45am.
Stat of the Match: Andreescu nearly tripled up on Golubic in the winner column, hitting 40 to the Swiss' 15. She was broken just three times.
Key Quote: "Over the last couple of months I've really had to figure out what works best for me and what doesn't," Andreescu said. "I've been feeling like I'm too caught up in my head with different things. I told myself, let's just keep it simple: cross-court, serve body-tee, and just push her back, and when I had the opportunity, come to the net. That's really all it was because I didn't want to make it difficult for myself just because of lack of matches, confidence and whatnot. I think by doing that it's going to definitely build up to way more."
Next up for Andreescu: The Canadian will face American Lauren Davis in the second round. The winner will face either Berlin champion Liudmila Samsonova or lucky loser Greet Minnen, who found herself in the main draw after Jelena Ostapenko withdrew for medical reasons. As a result of Ostapenko's withdrawal, Andreescu will not face a seeded player before the Round of 16.
Sara Sorribes Tormo knocks out 22nd seed Karolina Muchova
Day 1 saw just one seeded player lose, with No.31 seed Yulia Putintseva bowing out to Kaia Kanepi. On Day 2, the seeds went undefeated during the day, but the upsets came as night began to fall.
No.41 Sorribes Tormo notched the biggest upset of the opening round, defeating No.22 seed and Australian Open semifinalist Karolina Muchova, 6-2, 7-6(3) for her fifth Top 30 win of the season. After dominating the first set, the Spaniard rallied from 3-5 down in the second to seal a straight-set win.
She will face Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round, where a win would put her into the third round of a Slam for the first time in her career.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova shrugs off late arrival
The French Open finalist was not sure if she would even be able to compete in New York. The 14th seed was stuck in Canada due to visa issues and arrived in New York over the weekend.
Pavlyuchenkova shrugged off the distractions to defeat Alison Riske, 6-4, 6-2 and will face Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the second round.
Sorana Cirstea's strong Slam form continues
The Romanian knocked out No.29 seed Veronika Kudermetova 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-0 to snap a three-match losing skid. Cirstea has now defeated a seeded player at five of the last six Slams. She'll face Shelby Rogers for a spot in the third round.
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