MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.—No one would have hated on Bianca Andreescu had she packed it in when she went down 6-4, 5-1 and match point to Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round of the Miami Open. Instead of slipping off to take a much-earned vacation, the 18-year-old overcame the world No. 70, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2.
“Well, it's a new tournament, new atmosphere, new environment, different court. I guess that took a bit of getting used to,” Andreescu said. “Maybe I needed to almost lose to wake up. That's obviously what happened today. I'm really grateful how I managed.”
It’s not easy winning a WTA Premier Mandatory crown and having to start all over against just four days later. It’s also not easy going from the third largest stadium in the world to a brand-new side court overlooking a row of practice courts, no matter how humble you are.
“It still hasn't really soaked in, but now I'm getting more attention with the media, and a lot more people are asking for my autograph, watching my practices, watching my matches,” Andreescu said. “So that's definitely changed. I guess it's slowly starting to sink in.”
Unseeded, Andreescu didn’t get a bye, and was meant to play on Wednesday night but got rained out to Thursday afternoon. In a case of déjà vu, Andreescu had to beat Begu in her first round in Indian Wells, too. In that match, Andreescu also dropped the first, before winning 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-3.
“I actually thought I was going to lose my first round, because I started off really, really slow," Andreescu said. "I was really nervous. I have never played at Indian Wells before on such a big stadium. I played on Stadium 2. I was pretty nervous. But I really didn't think I was going to win that match.”
It's crazy how much has changed. Her fame level went from minor to super sensation in a matter of days, as her ranking soared to No. 24, but she's still very much down to earth, and very used to play on all kinds of courts.
“Well, it's not really weird, because I've played on many little courts before,” Andreescu said about the stadium downgrade. “Played on courts in Japan in the middle of nowhere where no one is watching. It's not different than other matches I have played.”
The new Butch Buchholz stadium can only be best compared to a Stadium 5 or 6 at Indian Wells. Just a few small bleachers surround the aqua blue concrete, making for an intimate environment that fits 1,600. Compare that to Stadium 1 at Indian Wells, which seats 16,100. Andreescu's greenness to tour success helped her in this case, as she wasn't thrown off by the massive switch in scenery. It was also her Miami Open debut, so she had nothing to compare it to.
After dropping a close first set, Andreescu looked completely wiped out. Understandably so, but she didn’t let herself give up, or show too much frustration. Her biggest sign of unhappiness was launching a ball into the stands behind Begu’s baseline after double faulting to go down 4-1. Then she got a pep talk from her coach, Sylvain Bruneau.
At 5-1, she could have just accepted her fate. Consistency is key to her diverse game style working and she needed to get more balls in the court. The first set and a half of this match showed what Andreescu's game looks like when she's off, and it wasn't pretty: lob-drop shot medleys only look cool when they work. When she earned a game point at 4-5, Andreescu let out what’s becoming her signature roar, bending over and screaming "Come on!" with her entire body.
Letting Andreescu back in the match cost Begu big time, as the Canadian began to gain confidence, and forge ahead to 6-5. Her wins game streak ended at five, but she carried her momentum into the tiebreaker to win it in dominant fashion, 7-2.
With the script completely flipped, Andreescu cruised to the second round, wrapping up the third set with the loss of just two games. She'll play world No. 32-seeded American Sofa Kenin next, who is the last player to beat her, in the semifinals of Acapulco.
“The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory,” Andreescu said. “I have gained a lot of experience from today, but hopefully I don't have to actually be down match point to win matches.”