Losing the first set 6-love was not how Canadian Bianca Andreescu wanted to start her finals match against Jessica Pegula at the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach on Sunday morning. Pegula, who defeated fellow American Lauren Davis in yesterday’s semifinals, was so close to taking an enormous lead on the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard she could taste it, and the Canadian was obviously letting the pressure of the match get to her.
After a devastating first set Andreescu, 18, took advantage of a bathroom break to refocus on the task at hand. “I tried to calm myself down because I was getting really annoyed with myself in that first set. I have to give credit to Jessica because she played really well,” said Andreescu. “I tried to leave that set behind and focus on the next and I think I stayed in the present moment throughout the second and third set after that.”
Living in the moment is a strategy that has worked well for the young Canadian. After a challenging couple of years in her young career, in which she endured back, knee and groin injuries, not to mention a painful stress fracture to her foot, Andreescu has certainly made the most of each moment presented to her so far this year. “I want to just keep things going,” said Andreescu. “I just feel like a lot is clicking for me so hopefully I can just keep the same routines and work through the challenges.” Andreescu arrived in Newport Beach after an incredible run in Auckland where her run to the finals surprised top-ranked opponents like Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Su-Wei Hsieh. She defeated second seed Tatjana Maria of Germany in Saturday’s semifinals, making her second WTA finals appearance this month.
The change wasn’t immediate, but a different Andreescu took the court in the second and third sets of Sunday’s match. “I tried to just stay in the present moment and let go of my shots more,” said Andreescu. “I think when I do that I play my best tennis.” Andreescu broke her opponent early in the second set and managed to force a third set. “The momentum really started to shift [in the third set] when I broke her at 2-all and went up to 3-2 because then I was serving, and got that 4-2 lead which made a big difference.” With the crowd behind her, Andreescu broke Pegula once again, and served to close out the final set 6-2.
You never know what you’re gonna get with any particular day. One day your forearm won’t work, one day your serve won’t work. Today a lot didn’t work for me but I just tried and pushed myself right until the end. If you have to win scrappy, then you have to win scrappy. That’s what happened today and I’m really proud of myself.
Pegula, after today’s match, sits second on the Road to Indian Wells leaderboard, just one point behind Houston finalist, Davis. Having reached the semifinals herself in Houston, Pegula recognizes the impact that the Oracle Challenger Series has had on her career. “It’s awesome that Oracle is giving Americans the chance to play pretty big tournaments in the States and I’ve definitely taken advantage,” said Pegula. “It really does help a lot. It’s helped my rankings a lot.” Pegula’s success in Houston earned her 57 ranking points and her success in Newport Beach this week will earn her 95 ranking points. When the updated rankings are released on Monday, Pegula will hit a career high of World No. 103.
Andreescu will also enjoy a career-high ranking of World No. 68 and the esteem of being the highest ranked Canadian woman. “These are the matches I live for,” said Andreescu. “These are the ones that mean the most.”