Bianca Andreescu puts her 17-match winning streak on the line when she squares off against Naomi Osaka for the first time in a mouth-watering quarter final at the China Open on Friday.
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It’s a clash between the most recent US Open champions, as two of the very best young guns in the business go head-to-head in the Chinese capital.
Andreescu is also looking to extend her winning streak against top-ten players, with the Canadian enjoying an incredible 8-0 run against the sport’s elite.
The Canadian herself has become part of that top-ten group following an outstanding season which is showing very little signs of abating. Ranked outside the top-100 at the start of the year, Andreescu has been on a remarkable journey over the last nine months, winning huge titles at Indian Wells, Toronto and of course, the US Open.
To think that she played just one match between April and July, and has still managed to reach the top-five in the world, and qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen is quite astounding. She struggled with a shoulder injury during that period, retiring from a fourth-round meeting with Anett Kontaveit in Miami, and withdrawing after just one match in an attempted but failed comeback at Roland Garros.
Her second comeback has been far more successful, as she is yet to lose a match since her return to the tour in Toronto, winning the Rogers Cup and US Open titles, and now, advancing to the quarter finals in Beijing.
Andreescu required three sets to get through her Beijing opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, but she is yet to drop a set since then, defeating Elise Mertens, 6-3 7-6, and scoring a 6-1 6-3 victory over Jennifer Brady in her most convincing win of the season.
“I think it was a solid match overall from my part. My goal was to take control right from the start and make sure I’m consistent with my serve. Last couple matches, I wasn’t,” Andreescu said after the match.
“I’m really happy with how my serve held up today, and also my return, especially in the first set. It’s nice having a match like this, especially after what happened yesterday. I think I was more positive, as well. I think that helped a lot.”
Andreescu needed just over an hour to get past Brady, serving five aces and winning 79% of points on her first serve, and saving all four break points she faced as she moved into her sixth quarter final of the year.
She has won all of the previous five- can she extend that streak when she confronts Osaka on Friday?
“I’m feeling more excited than usual. I wanted to play her ever since she did so well at the US Open and Australian Open. I’m really happy that I get to play her tomorrow because I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Andreescu continued.
“I know she’s an aggressive player. She has similar traits to Serena, as well. Big serve, big groundstrokes. She moves pretty well, too. If I just go out there and play my game, I think that’s worked a lot this year against many of the players. The goal is just to play my game and stay positive.”
Osaka is also on a winning streak of her own, as she is unbeaten in her last seven matches, winning four in her title run in Osaka, and another three in Beijing.
2018 US Open champion and 2019 Australian Open champion has been in terrific form in Asia, as she is yet to drop a set across Tokyo and Beijing. Osaka opened her Beijing campaign with a 6-3 7-6 victory over Jessica Pegula, before blasting past Andrea Petkovic 6-2 6-0, and Alison Riske 6-4 6-0 in the third round.
Osaka trailed Riske 2-4 in the opening set, but the two-time major champion put her foot on the gas after that, and sprinted away with the next ten games to dispatch the Wuhan finalist in emphatic fashion.
Osaka has spoken this week about making a conscious effort to finish the year strongly, after going through a lengthy period when she wasn’t quite performing at her best. Between her Australian Open success in January and her Osaka title run in September, the former world No. 1 made just the one semi-final- in Stuttgart.
“I took a week break [after the US Open]. I was sorting out my thoughts. I was thinking that I have to at least end the year well. Osaka is coming up, and I always play well in Japan, like I have to win that tournament, and I have to do well in the Asian swing.”
She’s definitely having a very fine Asian swing, but she will have her hands very full when she runs into top-ten slayer, Andreescu for the first time in her Beijing quarter final on Friday.
“I feel like she’s doing better than I was last year, so it’s all cool. I have to learn from her, too,” Osaka said of Andreescu.
Osaka serves bigger and is more powerful off the ground, but Andreescu is no slouch in the big-hitting department, and crucially, she mixes it up with plenty of variety. That could be a big factor in Friday’s meeting.
Andreescu’s record against top-ten players looms large on the tour- the Canadian is already a wonderfully talented player, but she seems to raise her game to a higher level when she plays the big players, and is incredibly tough mentally.
This is a truly mouth-watering contest- hopefully both women bring their best to the table.