The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Andreescu makes winning return to Toronto; Sakkari stops Stephens in late-night thriller

August 9, 2022
Bianca Andreescu yells

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

By Max Gao

There’s no place like home.

Three years after her historic championship victory at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers, Mississauga native Bianca Andreescu battled past Daria Kasatkina, 7-6(5), 6-4, on Tuesday night to kick off her 2022 campaign in Toronto. 

Andreescu, who is looking to recapture the same form that she displayed en route to winning the U.S. Open title in 2019, will face France’s Alizé Cornet tomorrow evening for a place in the round of 16.

In their third-ever meeting, Andreescu and Kasatkina traded five breaks of serve in a row, with the Canadian gaining the early advantage, before exchanging four consecutive holds. Andreescu had opportunities to serve out the opening set at 5-4 and 6-5, but Kasatkina broke back at just the right time, using her heavy groundstrokes to dictate the rallies and move the former champion from side-to-side. 

In the tense tiebreak, Kasatkina twice found herself up a minibreak but could not consolidate her lead, and Andreescu won five of the last six points to take the marathon 85-minute opening set by the skin of her teeth.

Despite struggling physically and calling the physio multiple times, Andreescu jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the second, using her variety to outlast Kasatkina, who struggled to find her range after a short break between sets. Kasatkina, however, immediately responded in impressive fashion, reeling off three games in a row to lead 3-2 with a break. 

With her back against the wall, Andreescu won three consecutive games of her own to go up 5-3, but she was unable to serve out the match. However, in the next game, the Canadian—buoyed by the support of her home crowd—broke for an eighth time to secure the victory in two hours and 29 minutes.

As the clock struck midnight in Toronto, No. 3 seed Maria Sakkari battled past former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, to become the first player to advance to the third round. For a place in the quarterfinals, the Greek will face the winner of the match between Amanda Anisimova and Karolina Pliskova, which will be played at 11 a.m. on Wednesday on the Grandstand.

Having won a couple of matches in Montreal last year but never one in Toronto, Sakkari raced out of the blocks, breaking twice and saving the only break point she faced to move within a set of a late-night victory.

Stephens, who was a finalist at this event in Montreal in 2018, hit back in the early stages of the second set, breaking at love and saving four break points in the following game to jump out to a 2-0 lead. From there, the former World No. 3 won three of the next four games—and earned an insurance break—to lead 5-1, before Sakkari reeled off three games in a row. In the end, Stephens was able to hold her nerve, converting her second set point to force a final set.

After trading holds of serve for the first five games of the decider, Sakkari earned a crucial break at 3-2 and soon consolidated her advantage to lead 5-2. What little resistance that Stephens had left was broken in the following game, as Sakkari ousted the American with another big forehand winner on match point.

The remaining second-round matches will be played on Wednesday, with 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, Canadians Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez all in action on Centre Court.

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