Bianca Andreescu withstood an avalanche of huge hitting by Ysaline Bonaventure to reach the second round of Roland Garros on Monday with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 victory.
The 5-foot-10 Belgian is a weight and height class or two above Andreescu and used her awesome power and lefty ground strokes to control rallies for most of the first two sets.
Bonaventure’s ability to first-strike with pace – and with consistency – didn’t allow Andreescu to get untracked and display her usual colourful spectrum of shots. Too often she was on the back foot.
If the start of the match was any indication, Andreescu was in for a sweet time against the No. 168-ranked qualifier. She won nine of the first 10 points and was sharp and hitting the ball crisply.
But suddenly, like a prize fighter trying for a haymaker or a baseball batter swinging for the fences, Bonaventure began connecting off the ground with devastating power and could hardly miss. She was relentless – and that lasted pretty well until she led 6-3, and 2-0, deuce, serving in the second set. Had Bonaventure managed to grab a 3-0 lead, Andreescu might have been out of the tournament. And her support team (below – coach Sven Groeneveld, fitness trainer Abdul Sillah and Canadian BJK Cup team captain Heidi El Tabakh) were certainly concerned.
While she was frustrated, Andreescu never lost her composure and kept making the ‘zoning’ Bonaventure hit an extra shot. The first real indication the 27-year-old Belgian might be coming back to earth was when she had double-break point for a 4-2 lead in the second set and make two backhand errors.
It was still difficult for Andreescu to deal with the incredibly hard and deep Bonaventure barrage – usually the shoe is on the other foot for the 21-year-old from Mississauga. In fact, Bonaventure, one of the most immobile players on the tour, was hitting with such explosive effect that Andreescu seldom had time to attempt her customary drop shots.
She served to stay in the match at 4-5 in the second set and won the game to 30, finishing with a beauty backhand swing volley winner.
The tide was turning and serving at 5-all, Bonaventure, who was playing in her first French Open main draw, double-faulted on two of the last three points. Sandwiched in between was a close sideline call on a shot by Andreescu that the Belgian asked umpire Carlos Ramos (above) to come out and check. When Ramos ruled the ball had caught the line, Bonaventure may have seen the writing on the wall and that second double fault on the game point was into the net.
Andreescu served out to love in the following game and after an hour and 26 minutes the match was a set a piece but heavily tilted in Andreescu’s favour.
The third set, which was always going to be a challenge for Bonaventure against an opponent as talented as Andreescu, stood at 3-0 and game point for Andreescu in 18 minutes when there was a two-hour and 20-minute rain delay. Andreescu left the court for a clothes change but Bonaventure (below) remained courtside for the whole six minutes.
When play resumed, Andreescu quickly made it 4-0 and in 10 minutes had sewn up the hour and 59-minute win that set up a date in the second round with No. 14 seed Belinda Bencic on Wednesday. The 25-year-old Swiss defeated lucky loser Réka Luca Jani, 30, of Hungary 6-1, 6-1 on Sunday.
The only previous meeting between Andreescu and Bencic was the Canadian’s 7-6(3), 7-5 semi-final win on the way to the US Open title in 2019.
“I really had to keep my cool because she was playing super well,” Andreescu said about Monday’s match against Bonaventure. “I feel like I was doing everything, to be honest. I was trying a bunch of things, and sometimes, you know, your opponent is just playing really, really good. So that’s why I had to adapt.
“At one point I just said, ‘f*** it,’ and I started going for more because I feel that was the only thing I could do. I feel like I was doing that at the beginning, but then she kind of caught on and started doing other things.
“But when I really stayed committed to putting more pressure, that’s when I feel like she also lost her cool and I just kept increasing my level.”
As for Bonaventure, who has now only won one match in five Grand Slam main draws appearances in her career, there were regrets. “Mentally it was very complicated because I knew that if I missed the opportunities I had, I wouldn’t have many more,” she said. “I had to keep going.”
“She (Andreescu) raised her game and I was maybe a little bit less aggressive and in the third set she was clearly better than me. It was more difficult mentally for me to come back in the match.”
Andreescu made the best of the two-hour and 20-minute rain delay. “I was in the gym for a bit,” she said. “There weren’t that many players. I think a lot of them went to the locker room. I just chilled in the gym a little bit and went to one of the private physio rooms.
“The tournament did a really good job with having a little area. I think there are beds near transport here where you can just chill and relax. Then obviously in the locker room there is a nice lounge area.
“So the tournament does a good job with things like that. I guess they know that it rains a lot here.”
Looking ahead to playing Bencic, the reigning Olympic gold medal champion, Andreescu said, “for me every first match of a tournament is a bit shaky in a way because of my nerves, and like holding your ground, trying to find foot and trying to figure out the environment and all that.”
“So I hope that this match will definitely help me prepare for the next one. I really hope so.”
Recounting her thoughts on where she’s at now as regards having taken six months away from tennis and now having recently returned for four events, Andreescu said, “when you play consecutive matches, consecutive tournaments, you kind of have a good rhythm going. You learn a lot from your wins and from your losses.
“But also, taking time off, you can also gain a lot as well. Like me, I feel like I have gained a lot of wisdom throughout my time off, and I feel fresher and maybe more motivated.
“I’m not comparing myself to anyone, but that’s just how I feel, so I think it’s both. But the more matches I play, the more momentum I get and I think the better I will play.”
She got almost two hours of momentum of Monday on Court 7, compared to just 60 minutes for Bencic in her match on Sunday. Wednesday could show who that favours.
The lone Canadian in action on Tuesday will be No. 14 seed Denis Shapovalov. He faces No. 40-ranked Holger Rune (pronounced ‘oohn-uh’).
The 19-year-old Dane is 17-4 overall on clay in 2022, including titles at a Challenger event in Sanremo, Italy, in April and three weeks ago at the ATP 250 event in Munich.
It will be a first meeting between Rune and Shapovalov, whose clay-court tournaments leading into Roland Garros were a second round in Madrid (lost No. 78 Andy Murray), a quarter-final in Rome (beat No. 4 Rafael Nadal and lost No. 10 Casper Rudd) and an opening round last week in Geneva (lost No. 50 Ilya Ivashka).
Shapovalov is 2-3 at Roland Garros and will be hoping to erase the memory of a tough second-round 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 loss to diminutive, No. 101-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena in his last appearance in 2020.
Rune, the 2019 junior boys champion at the French Open, is playing in the main draw at the event for the first time. The match is first on Court 12 at 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET Canada.)
INCOMPARABLE ROLAND GARROS & PARIS
You don’t need an audio music console with back-up singers and violins to do this remix – just a few ice cream flavours, dark and white chocolate and some almonds.
Feature Photo: Martin Sidorjak