INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA -- The Cinderella run of Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu continues at the BNP Paribas Open, as the wild card knocked off No.6 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, to advance to the second -- and biggest -- final of her season and career at Indian Wells.
"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."
In the first meeting between the two players, 18-year-old Andreescu survived two hours and 12 minutes of momentum shifts and topsy-turvy play before claiming her second Top 10 win and increasing her outstanding win-loss record for the year to 27-3 across all levels.
"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," the Canadian added. "It was a crazy match. It was a roller coaster. I'm really happy I pulled through."
Andreescu becomes the first wild card to make it into the final at Indian Wells, and improves to 2-0 against Top 10 players after beating then-World No.3 Caroline Wozniacki in Auckland earlier this year. 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.
World No.60 Andreescu is now projected to crack the Top 35 of the WTA singles rankings on Monday, and could reach the Top 25 with a title win.
To earn her first-ever WTA singles trophy, Andreescu will have to get past No.8 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, who ended the 12-match winning streak of No.23 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the second semifinal of the evening. It will be the first meeting between Andreescu and Kerber.
"Kerber is an incredible fighter," Andreescu stated. "She redirects her shots. Like, she can hit any shot at any time in any specific place whenever she wants. She has a pretty decent serve. She's a good mover, great fighter."
Svitolina got off to a hot start in the first three games of the match, while Andreescu was error-prone at that stage. After solid returning by the Ukrainian and early miscues by the Canadian, it was Svitolina who found herself up 3-0, having broken Andreescu twice successively.
However, Andreescu completely turned the set around from there. The teenager became the aggressor, taking the ball early and teeing off on groundstrokes from both wings. Andreescu clawed one break back for 3-1, then did it again to level at 3-3 after an audacious drop shot on break point forced an error.
The Canadian kept her run rolling, eventually winning 26 of the last 35 points in the opening frame. By the end of the set, Andreescu had won two-thirds of Svitolina’s first-service points, after having earned a third straight break to lead 5-3. Strong serves led to an easy hold for the Canadian, as she reeled off a sixth consecutive game to clinch the opening set.
Andreescu used another dropshot winner on break point to take Svitolina’s serve in the first game of the second set, but the Ukrainian finally quashed the teen’s game-winning streak at seven by breaking back at love. Svitolina started to find more aggressive forehands at this juncture, and held to take a 2-1 lead.
The sixth seed kept her solid play up, breaking for a 3-1 lead as Andreescu started to spray more errors again. Svitolina staved off two break points in the following game, moving ahead to 4-1 as she got nearer to tying up the match.
The Canadian served to stay in the set at 5-2, and Svitolina reached her first set point in that game with a volley winner. Andreescu fended that off with a forehand winner, but she double faulted to give a second chance to Svitolina, which the Ukrainian took after another sturdy volley forced a wide error.
Having won six of the last seven games, Svitolina started the opening set with momentum, but she squandered game point in her first service game, and Andreescu surprised the Ukrainian by breaking serve with a forehand winner down the line. Svitolina did level the match at 3-3, though, as her teenage opponent fired off more unforced errors at inopportune moments.
However, Andreescu fought right back, crushing a return winner on break point in the next game to reclaim her single-break advantage and lead 4-3. The Canadian then fought back from 0-40 down in the subsequent game with some brilliant serve-and-forehand combinations, holding for 5-3 and putting the pressure squarely on Svitolina.
The Ukrainian had to stare down a match point while serving at 5-3, but held serve. Svitolina then got to double break point at 5-4, but Andreescu saved both thanks to audacious forehands. The teenager then missed two more match points and had to save another break point, but finally won the protracted game on her fourth match point after a netted Svitolina forehand, earning a landmark victory.