Andreescu earns thrilling first-round win at National Bank Open over Daria Kasatkina

·4 min read

TORONTO — Bianca Andreescu feels as though she has found her fighting spirit after a tough, but thrilling 2 1/2 hour two-set victory on Tuesday.

The Mississauga, Ont., native defeated world No. 9 Daria Kasatkina 7-6 (5), 6-4 in her opening round match at the National Bank Open.

"A win is a win no matter how you pull it off and today really showed me a lot about myself and how I can push through these things if I really want it," Andreescu said.

"It just shows that fighting spirit that I still have in me. I want to continue building on that."

The win didn't come without difficulty though.

On a number of occasions, Andreescu was in discussion with her trainers and seemed to be breathing heavy at different points of the match.

But the 22-year-old insisted she felt much better post-match.

"I'm feeling much better. I felt really dizzy, I had no idea what it was," she said. "Maybe something that I ate or all the stress leading up to the tournament, I have no idea. I'm super happy that I was able to clutch it out."

Asked if she thought of retiring from the match, Andreescu was adamant about not wanting to.

"I did not want to at all. There was one moment where I was a bit afraid that I couldn't (continue) but it's not like I had that thought in my head where I wanted to quit. I really couldn't today, something came upon me even though I was feeling like absolute crap," she said.

"Especially during the tiebreaker, I hit a shot and I was seeing double almost. That was kind of the point where I didn't feel the best. But the crowd … they really pushed me to continue."

Andreescu, who won the event in 2019 in Toronto, was sharp and active early, making comebacks within games she later won. She also went 3-for-3 on break points through the first five games.

Up 3-2, she mixed up her shots, using forehands, backhands and drop shots, making Kasatkina work. A Kasatkina error allowed Andreescu to have some breathing room with a 4-2 lead.

"Changing it up with my drop shot — I feel like I brought it out more today than (these) past four months," Andreescu said. "I'm very happy with that."

After Kasatkina eventually tied the set at 6-6, Andreescu scored six out the final eight points in the tiebreaker to win the set, punctuated by a powerful forehand. The set took 85 minutes to play.

In the second set, Andreescu jumped out to a strong start, outlasting Kasatkina through multiple lengthy exchanges as the Russian committed multiple errors, sending shots into the net.

Andreescu again began to mix it up between drop shots and forehands that Kasatkina struggled to return with accuracy at times, as the Canadian grabbed a 2-0 lead.

After Kasatkina took the next three sets, Andreescu followed with three straight wins of her own, finishing with a forehand winner that had her opponent visibly upset.

With the home crowd behind her, Andreescu went up 40-0 in the clinching game before committing two errors. She then used another drop shot that Kasatkina could not run down to close the match.

She immediately raised her hands as the crowd gave her a standing ovation.

Andreescu will play against Alize Cornet of France in the second round, a player she hasn't defeated in two career outings.

Eyeing her revenge against Cornet, Andreescu feels more confident in her chances after beating Kasatkina.

"It definitely gives me confidence for the next match. Alize kind of plays like Daria a little bit in a way — more consistent and all that," she said. "So having this match under my belt and going into tomorrow against Alize definitely gives me confidence."

Naomi Osaka's recent struggles continued earlier Tuesday with an early exit from the National Bank Open.

The four-time Grand Slam champion from Japan retired from her first-round match with a back injury. Osaka was losing 7-6 (4), 3-0 against Estonia's Kaia Kanepi when she withdrew from the contest.

"I felt my back from the start of the match, and despite trying to push through it, I just wasn't able to today," Osaka said in a written statement. "I'd like to pay credit to Kaia for playing well and want to wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament."

Entering the tournament, Osaka had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round, including a straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week's Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

That was her first competition since the French Open as she recovered from an Achilles injury.

The 31st-ranked Kanepi will next play No. 8 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

Earlier in the day, Vancouver native Rebecca Marino fell 6-3, 6-7 (5), 4-6 to Zheng Qinwen.

Fellow Canadian Carol Zhao also dropped her first match, 6-1, 6-3 to American Amanda Anisimova.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press