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Bianca Andreescu checks all the boxes in Indian Wells

Matt Zemek

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports

Bianca Andreescu played a ton of tennis in January. How many matches, including challengers and qualifiers? 18, if you include late-December matches as part of the 2019 season (and hence, January).

Andreescu, who is 18 years old, rightly loaded up her schedule. She needed matches. She needed experience. She needed points. She needed opportunities. She needed a variety of contexts in which to perform and learn about life on tour.

She is proving to be a very quick study.

Those matches, rather than wear her out, have sharpened her instincts and fortified her inner self… and not over the course of a full year, either.

Andreescu, in a field of 96 WTA professionals, has reached the championship match of the BNP Paribas Open. She took on — and then took down — a seasoned and scrappy semifinalist, Elina Svitolina, to reach the biggest final of her very young career.

The fact that Andreescu won is, by itself, enough of a statement to make for a teenager who has burst onto the WTA scene and added to the tour’s insane amount of quality depth. HOW Andreescu won this match, though, represents a much fuller measure of her tennis acumen.

How many more questions could Andreescu have answered — and answered WELL — on Friday night in the desert?

She was punched in the mouth at the start of the match, falling behind 3-0 against a veteran who had been there and done that.

She lost six of seven games as the second set got away from her.

She lost a break lead in the third set and battled fatigue.

She faced a 0-40 deficit when serving at *4-3 in the third — not just three break points, but knowing she had to win three points in succession to stay in front.

She lost a match point at 5-3, with Svitolina serving, and then had to deal with that recent memory when serving for the match moments later.

She faced three break points when serving for the match, an even more specific and intense form of stress.

She conquered each and every one of those periods of difficulty.

Moreover, she did so with great poise, cleverness, and adaptability. That last word — adaptability — sums up for me why Andreescu has been so successful. She can win points in many different ways. She can select many tools from the box and use each of them quite competently in a pressure-packed situation.

Look at how she saved those three break points in the *5-4 game to serve out the match. She hit a powerful forehand into the corner (1) and then a soft, angled, curving forehand near the service box (2). She used a drop shot (3) to save the last break point of the match and then closed the sale moments later.

We tennis commentators keep saying we want to see more variety in the game, an ability to not only hit every kind of shot, but USE it and use it WELL in big moments.

Bianca Andreescu is an embodiment of this ideal in women’s tennis, but as great as her variety is, what’s even greater is the willingness to display the full measure of that variety in a range of contexts.

We know that Roger Federer struggled in the very early years of his career because he knew he could hit any kind of shot but didn’t know when to play various shots or how to sequence them. You can see in Andreescu’s game that Bianca already knows when to hit various shots and how to sequence them. She hits the offensive slice to set up a power drive in much the same way Federer did earlier on Friday in his quarterfinal win over Hubert Hurkacz.

The fact that Andreescu is in the Indian Wells final is amazing. Yes. Oui.

What’s even more amazing is how complete a game Andreescu has used to get there, and how brilliantly the Canadian has responded to high-stress, high-pressure moments.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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