I wrote about Bianca Andreescu’s resourcefulness, variety, versatility, court craft, and perseverance after her win over Elina Svitolina in the Indian Wells semifinals. She brought all of those same qualities to the Indian Wells final on Sunday against Angelique Kerber.
Andreescu once again created the perfect tennis marriage, the blissful union all great players possess and replicate on a continuous basis: She displayed the skill and acuity to hit any kind of shot with considerable competence, often in mixed and varying patterns which kept Kerber off balance, but she combined that multi-textured talent with the inner steel of a competitor who simply doesn’t back down.
The artful variety and internal fortitude of Andreescu is truly hard to beat in multiple senses of the expression — no one defeated this combination in Indian Wells, and now Andreescu will almost certainly be a seeded player at Roland Garros. Her days of playing qualifiers are over, at least for now.
Any observer of the Indian Wells tournament — and of Andreescu’s semifinal and final victories over proven WTA pros — did not have to guess why Andreescu has made this rapid and meteoric climb up the ranks in women’s tennis. This combination of skill and will is evident in Andreescu’s actions and aspirations. It is clear that she uses variety as her main chess piece and has the resilience to pull through tough situations.
The WHAT of Andreescu — what she brings to the table — is not a mystery. The marvel, the “wow!” factor attached to her stunning Indian Wells tournament, is found not in the “what,” but in the HOW.
The “how” is the “wow.”
When does an 18-year-old find the ability to so consistently replicate not merely good tennis and thoughtful tennis, but good and thoughtful tennis in difficult scoreboard situations against players who have reached or come close to the mountaintop in the sport?
Svitolina, Andreescu’s victim in the semifinals, has won Rome each of the past two years and has stacked an impressive list of Premier 5 titles to accompany her 2018 WTA Finals championship. Kerber, Andreescu’s victim in the final of Indian Wells, has won three major titles, reached multiple Wimbledon finals, played in an Olympic gold medal match, played in a WTA Finals championship match, and endured every significant pressure cooker in tennis.
Andreescu, standing in the center of a main-event amphitheater — could not truly say “I had been here before” in the Indian Wells semis and final. These were new stages for her. Yes, she had nothing to lose, but she still had to carry her body and mind through three full sets of tough, layered points against proven opposition with ample experience.
She, not her veteran opponents, had the better and final answers in this crucible of competition.
Andreescu earned an A-plus for her tournament and especially this magnificent final in which Kerber forced her to work hard and find even greater amounts of coping solutions. It is precisely this need to find new answers — to go to even deeper places in the realms of both tactics and perseverance — which makes the test of tennis so complete.
Kerber and also Svitolina asked so many questions. Andreescu found all the answers she needed.
The drama — and power — of seeing any player respond with brilliance in a competitive cauldron is impressive. That an 18-year-old wild card did this on one of the biggest stages in tennis is exponentially more remarkable.
The theater of tennis made all of this possible.
The sport, not just Andreescu, was a huge winner over the weekend in Indian Wells.