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Canada’s Andreescu uses trademark resilience to reach U.S. Open semis

Last Updated Sep 5, 2019 at 11:27 am PDT

Bianca Andreescu, of Canada, reacts after defeating Elise Mertens, of Belgium, during the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu has advanced to the semifinals at the U.S. Open

Andreescu defeated Elise Mertens of Belgium in three sets, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals

Canadian Andreescu is off to her first career major semifinal

“Is this real life?”

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu would ask that rhetorical question twice during her post-match interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday after defeating Elise Mertens of Belgium 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

Yes, it is real life. Andreescu is off to her first career major semifinal.

The victory over Mertens didn’t come easy on a muggy night in Queens, but Andreescu, as she’s done all year long, didn’t show any quit in coming back for the victory.

The 19-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., improved to 17-3 in three-setters this season with the victory.

So how did she do it? Let’s break down Andreescu’s quarterfinal win.

Rough start

Andreescu got off to a rough start in the first meeting between the two and seemed to have trouble finding her rhythm and timing against No. 26 ranked Mertens.

Through the first four games, she had 11 unforced errors as Mertens took advantage of the mistakes. The first signs of the set going awry was in the first game when Andreescu went up 0-30, but allowed her opponent back into it on what was a prime break opportunity.

Andreescu also was unable to get many first serves across, which added to her frustration. On a pair of occasions, she smacked the ball after a point — clearly upset with her play.

On one break point for Mertens, Andreescu attempted a backhand drop shot at the net but it fell short, going down 3-1 in the process.

Andreescu finished with 14 unforced errors in the first set and only managed to land 56 per cent of her returns in play.

Give Mertens credit

Despite Andreescu’s numerous errors, Mertens’s play can’t be overlooked.

The Belgian, who beat Simona Halep in February to capture the Qatar Open, was locked in from the start and was placing shots with precision and ease on both the forehand and backhand. Her strong play was rewarded with a first set break, which really set the tone.

Andreescu used a pair of challenges on shots that Mertens painted on the line and were impossible for the Canadian to reach.

One example of the precision shot came in the sixth game of the first set when Mertens’s cross-court backhand nicked the line. Andreescu still held serve in the game, but it was an example of the type of shots Mertens was hitting.

The turning point

Andreescu, currently ranked No. 15 but will move into the WTA’s top 10 after the tournament, started to turn her game around in the fifth game of the second set and tied 2-2.

She came back to hold serve and went up 3-2 after a strong forehand winner. Andreescu hit 14 winners in the second set and started to play with more confidence.

The next game, she carried the momentum forward and broke Mertens for the second time in the set to go up 4-2.

“Yeah, come on!” she yelled after the break.

Another strong cross-court forehand gave Andreescu a third break and also the set victory to even the match at one set apiece.