On a buggy and humid late-summer night in Flushing Meadows on Wednesday night, Canada’s Bianca Andreescu got off to a slow start in a US Open quarterfinal clash with Elise Mertens, the 25th seed from Belgium.
Mertens played a lights-out opening set, winning 21 of 27 points on her serve and taking advantage of 14 unforced errors from Andreescu. But the 15th seeded teenager would work her way back into the match after dropping the first set, and came back to reach the semifinals with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
“I just told myself to keep fighting and hope that I can switch things around. I tried to stay more aggressive than the first set, and I felt like I was missing a lot in the first set, as well,” said Andreescu. “I saw that she was picking up on my backhand a lot, so I tried to go more down the line with my backhand so she can go back to my forehand so I can use my forehand...So she executed some good tactics in the first set. I just told myself to keep fighting and to not give up. That was the main thing.”
As the first set wound down, Andreescu began finding her form on serve and displayed more energy, belting out a couple of ‘Come Ons’, which she would carry into the second despite losing the opener. She broke for a 2-0 lead, and despite Mertens breaking right back, Andreescu would get the break back for ’4-2 as Mertens continued to dig herself a hole on her own serve.
She continued her aggressiveness in the second set, hitting 14 winners total, breaking again for 5-2, and holding serve to close out the set and force a deciding third.
Andreescu pressed the issue on Mertens serve as the third set began, forcing the Belgian to save two break points her first service game of the decider, and then have to save two more again to even things at 3-3.
That pressure would eventually create a breakthrough, with Mertens saving two more break points serving at 3-4, but couldn’t save a third as Andreescu struck a clean backhand down the line to secure the break she needed.
Andreescu would serve out the match, improving her record to 17-3 this year in three-set matches, and winning her 11th straight match overall to claim the final semifinal spot on the women’s side.
“I think anyone would be shocked to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam, because all of us dream of this moment ever since we’re kids, ever since we picked up a racquet,” said Andreescu. “I definitely think that I have fought really hard to get to this point, so I think I do deserve to be here and hopefully I can go all the way.”
The next step in that quest will come on Thursday night against 13th seed Belinda Bencic, who earlier in the day ousted No. 23 Donna Vekic 7-6(5), 6-3.
“I have practiced with her once, actually in Toronto. I found that she takes the ball really early. She likes to be aggressive,” Andreescu said of her upcoming opponent. “She has a very good serve. She moves pretty well, too. So I’m going to do my best to just focus on myself mainly and just keep doing what I’m doing.”