Switched-on Andreescu topples Azarenka

The unseeded Canadian recorded her first Roland-Garros top-20 win

Bianca Andreescu, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Chris Oddo

Billed as a popcorn first-rounder when the draw was released last week, Bianca Andreescu and Victoria Azarenka’s first career meeting didn’t blast out of the starting gates. But once it hit cruising speed, fans in Court Simonne-Mathieu were treated to a tense tug-of-war between two of the tour’s top pugilists. 

In the end, it was Andreescu who found her way through a seesaw affair, rallying for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory to set a second-round clash with American wild card Emma Navarro

Story of the match 

Where to start? Azarenka, who sauntered through the opening set behind three breaks of serve, seemed to know the answer to that question. Andreescu, who stumbled out of the blocks and eventually trailed by a set and a break at 6-2, 3-1, needed time to find her traction. 

After a lengthy feeling out process, the run of play would soon shift in favor of the former world No.4.

The lightbulb moment for the Canadian occurred in the fifth game of the middle set, with the 22-year-old in deep trouble, serving at 1-3, 15-40. Eight points later the Ontario, Canada native had successfully avoided a double break, and the momentum gained put wind in Andreescu sails. 

Bianca Andreescu, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Julien Crosnier/FFT

The world No.42 commenced putting full power behind her groundstrokes and set the No.18 seed on the back foot as she reeled off the final five games to force a decider. 

Andreescu drew the line in the sand again in the third set, digging in to save a trio of break points to hold for 4-2. Undaunted, Azarenka continued angling for a break down the stretch, but Andreescu refused to yield. 

In a tense final game, the Canadian made her last stand. She fought off nerves and a last-ditch push from Azarenka, converting her fifth match point to close out the victory in two hours and 30 minutes. 

Victoria Azarenka, Bianca Andreescu, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Key stats

Serving played a key role in Andreescu’s early struggles, as did unbridled aggression coupled with pinpoint accuracy. 

Andreescu won just 58 per cent of her first-serve points in the first two sets, that number improving because of her strong play late in the second set. In the decider she turned it up another notch. She won 21 of 34 first-serve points (77.4 per cent).

Andreescu’s commitment to her power baseline game was a key driver of success in the decider. She stuck to her guns and played brave tennis until the end, hitting 19 winners against just seven unforced errors in the final set.

With the victory Andreescu earns her first clay-court win of 2023 (1-2) and improves to 11-7 lifetime on the surface.

What the winner said

Andreescu on what it took to gut out a tremendous win: “I felt like I started to become very passive and she was just hitting winner after winner so I told myself that if I want to even have a close match I really have to put pressure and I started taking the ball earlier. 

“My serve started to become a weapon and I think that really helped.”