Teenage sensation Bianca Andreescu has forged her way into her maiden final at the ASB Classic, meeting and matching the wiles of Hsieh Su-Wei and coming out with a straight-sets victory.
Alex Macpherson
January 5, 2019

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - This week, qualifier Bianca Andreescu has outrun Caroline Wozniacki, out-winnered Venus Williams - and now, the teenage sensation has pulled off the rare feat of out-Hsiehing No.3 seed Hsieh Su-Wei to make her final debut 6-3, 6-3 at the ASB Classic.

Andreescu, playing just her fourth WTA-level main draw, becomes the first qualifier to reach the Auckland final since Marion Maruska's title run in 1997, having now personally dispatched three of the top half's original four seeds.

What has been remarkable about Andreescu's play has been the sheer number of ways in which she can win. The multifaceted Canadian has shown off smooth movement and dogged defence, but also the power and aggressive mindset needed to smack 39 winners against Venus Williams.

But could she deal with the wily idiosyncrasies of the Chinese Taipei No.1, whose bewitching game has tied so many players - old and young - in knots? Andreescu laid down a statement of intent in the very first point of the match: a booming forehand return, followed by a delicate dropshot winner that not even Hsieh could chase down.

This blend of power and touch would serve the 18-year-old well throughout the match - as well as a certain amount of mental toughness in coming through battles such as the nine-minute, five-deuce tussle on her opening serve, in which she fended off three break points and ultimately held with an ace.

"This week I've been playing a lot of different types of gamestyles," said Andreescu afterwards. "But I think I prepared very well before this match. I knew she was a very tricky player - I just tried to stay patient and aggressive."

Andreescu came out on top of an array of dropshots to immediately break Hsieh for 2-1, and thence entered something of a purple patch to build a 5-1 lead. Not only was the teenager pummeling the Hsieh serve, but she was also winning the finer battles of finesse, meeting and even exceeding the slices, lobs and dropshots her opponent threw at her.

This, it transpired, was a deliberate strategy. "One of the main goals today was to beat her at her own game," Andreescu informed reporters. "Because I know she really likes pace."

Hsieh was still able to conjure up moments of 'Su-Wei style' magic - the 33-year-old rallied to reduce the first-set deficit to 3-5 with the help of some casual dropshot-lob-dropshot-lob puppet-mastery, and in the second set avoided going down a double break thanks to an exquisite reflexed stop volley.

But Andreescu proved largely immune to Hsieh's spell - indeed, the frequency with which the World No.152 won points herself on the dropshot throughout the second set would have given Hsieh a rare taste of her own medicine. "It's called practice!" she laughed afterwards, when asked how she was so consistently accurate with the shot.

Not that Andreescu ever abandoned power, either: in a golden game that gave her the key break of the set, she followed a backhand dropshot with three clean, scorching return winners to break Hsieh to love for 3-1.

Though Hsieh would hang on to keep the deficit to just one break, saving a match point at 2-5, Andreescu - winning 72% of her first serves - would not face a break point over the second set. Pressured to raise her aggression, Hsieh's unforced errors would mount to an unusual tally of 26 - insufficient to counter Andreescu's irresistible form.

After one hour and 21 minutes, the former junior World No.3 would close the match out to 15 on her second match point, with yet another dropshot and a smash that emphatically disposed of a Hsieh lob in that game taking her winner total to 29.

There will be another contrasting test for the youngster in tomorrow's final, as she takes on the power of defending champion and No.2 seed Julia Goerges. Andreescu feels that her serve - something she is trying to turn into more of a weapon generally - will be crucial.

"Every day is different, especially with my serving," she laughed.  "I know Goerges is a very aggressive player, and she uses her serve to take control of the points - so if I don't do that then I'm kinda screwed."

Meanwhile, Andreescu is simply aiming to get a good night's sleep in before the final. "Every night I've been going to bed at 3am, 4am," she said. "My adrenaline is really night - I've never felt all these feelings before. I would be lying if I said I was feeling well - I'm pretty tired. But I'm going to try to keep the same routines as I did the last couple of matches and I'll be good - I'm going to try to enjoy every moment."