Elina Svitolina took the court against an unfamiliar opponent in Bianca Andreescu on Friday night in Indian Wells, and couldn’t slow her roll, falling 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. It was a challenging task for Svitolina to go up against a newcomer for the first time, especially on a big stage as the obvious favorite. Andreescu is now the youngest finalist in the desert since Serena William in 1999.
“I know she won the most matches in this season,” Svitolina said before facing Andreescu. “She plays great tennis. I think she moves good, and I have to be ready.”
So the Ukrainian didn't know much, other than that Andreescu was on fire. The teenager has catapulted into the spotlight at lightning speed, winning the most matches out of any player on the WTA tour with a whopping 27. Two of those wins came in Fed Cup and six came in qualifying draws because the 18-year-old ended the 2018 season ranked No. 178.
She was playing in her Indian Wells debut, when she tore through the draw with wins over Irina-Camelia Begu, Dominika Cibulkova, Stefanie Vogele, Wang Qiang, Garbine Muguruza and Svitolina.
"I'm actually shaking right now. It's just so incredible. I'm honestly speechless, speechless," Andreescu said, seemingly bewildered by her success.
Her run is not as shocking as it looks given she reached the Auckland final and won the WTA $125K Series in Newport Beach before reaching the semifinals in Acapulco. By now she has to realize she belongs at this level, with a Top 35 ranking secured.
“Obviously, I don't think it's going to be all butterflies and rainbows every day, but it has been so far, and just gonna take it one day at a time,” she said earlier this week. “Hopefully I can do a lot of great things this season.”
Though still just 24, Svitolina has been a regular inside of the Top 10 for two years, and been ranked as high as No. 3 with 13 titles to her name. The world No. 6 has been consistent this season, but has yet to reach a final, appearing in the quarterfinals in Melbourne and the semifinals in Doha and Dubai.
While many expected to see Svitolina advance comfortably, it’s Andreescu who earned her spot in the final with a relentless onslaught of confident play. She seemed at home on the big stage: after going down 0-3 in the first set, she reeled off six games for the set. Though she lost the second, her attitude remained positive, and it felt like the match was in her hands throughout.
When Andreescu described herself as "different" earlier this week she may have meant her personality, but her game is also unique. She throws in slices on her groundstrokes and on her serve, charges the net, and will even loop in a moonball to mix things up.
She will take on Angelique Kerber for the title on Saturday.
"This is my first-ever—or second, actually, premier event, and I'm in the final," Andreescu said. "So it's definitely a starting point."