Tennis

Mind over matter for Bianca

Canadian teen, 18, credits mental techniques for overcoming injury and Kerber to lift Indian Wells title

Bianca Andreescu pictured herself as champion of the WTA Indian Wells so many times during the tournament that actually winning it should have come as no great surprise.

But the Canadian wildcard was still stunned by her victory over Angelique Kerber yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The 18-year-old, who relies heavily on meditation and visualisation techniques to get her mental game in shape, had to dig deep against three-time Grand Slam champion Kerber and found another gear late on to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Andreescu, who played with an injured right shoulder and cramp, became the first wildcard and youngest to clinch the WTA Indian Wells title, one of the Tour's most prestigious Premier Mandatory tournaments.

"I did (visualise the victory). Not only this morning but so many times," she said.

"It's crazy to think that it became a reality today."

She said the key to the match came during a visit with her coach when she was trailing 3-2 in the third set.

"After I spoke to my coach, I just let it all out there," she said.

"At that point, I was really tired, so I went for my shots more, and that obviously worked. The next couple of games, I did the same thing.

"And I just fought till the end, because physically I wasn't feeling too well."

Not being 100 per cent fit is nothing new for Andreescu.

She missed six months in 2016 with stress fractures in her foot and was sidelined last year with back problems.

"A year ago, during this period, I had been struggling a lot with my tennis and with my body too. So it's crazy what a year can do," she added.

She said she tries to stay positive when dealing with injury setbacks like the foot fractures, which required her to practise hitting on the court while wheeling around in an office chair.

Those sessions helped her develop her drop shot, which she used to great effect in the final.

"I don't necessarily think that being injured is a bad thing," she said.

"I try to take it in a positive way and just find different things about me that might work later on."

GIANT-KILLER

Andreescu's run to the final included rallying from 3-1 down in the third set to beat Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round and a 6-0, 6-1 rout of former world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza, with a three-set win over sixth-ranked Elina Svitolina putting her into the title match.

Andreescu, who rocketed up 36 places to a new best of 24th in the WTA rankings yesterday, hopes that the Indian Wells title would do for her what it did for last year's winner Naomi Osaka.

The 21-year-old Japanese went on to win the US and Australian Opens and achieve the world No. 1 ranking.

"It's definitely inspiration seeing her claim the trophy last year and winning two Grand Slams right after," she said.

"But I don't really want to focus on the future right now. I just want to enjoy this moment, because I don't want to take anything for granted.

"You never know what next week brings." - REUTERS, AFP

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