“You are watching the changing of the guard.”
On January, earlier this year, John McEnroe believed that when Greek rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas stood out mightily to deny 2018 champion Roger Federer of recording a back-to-back title at the Australian Open after grabbing a 6-7(11), 7-6(3), 7-5, 7-6(5) victory at Rod Laver Arena—and, boy, oh boy, just a couple of months later, it can be fully claimed that the guards are almost changed.
Eighteen year-old Canadian wildcard Bianca Andreescu rose up to the occasion to take the tournament by storm, while 25-year old Dominic Thiem came back from a set down as they recorded two unique victories to hoist their maiden titles at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open, at the Stadium 1 of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, last Sunday.
Andreescu’s dream run finished with a fitting end as she pummelled her way through three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, to become the first wildcard to win the title at the Coachella Valley and the youngest ever since the then 17-year-old Serena Williams bagged the trophy in 1999.
The Canadian number one overpowered Kerber with her heavy forehand ground strokes to keep her off balance and break at the German’s opening service game to consolidate for an early 2-0 lead and nab the first set for only 41 minutes.
Despite dropping the second set and enduring an arm issue which required a medical timeout at the first changeover of the decider, Andreescu managed to break Kerber in the preceding game to jump off to a commanding 5-3 lead before eventually winning the title on the first phase of this year’s Sunshine Double.
“It’s incredible to have my name beside so many incredible champions. It’s a dream come true,” Andreescu said. “You never know what next week can bring. Maybe I’ll have a bad day. Maybe my opponent will play unbelievable. But, if I go out there and play my best, then I have no pressure, I think the only pressure that comes to me is the pressure that I put to myself,” she added.
On the other hand, clay court specialist Thiem denied Roger Federer for a possible 101st title celebration at the desert and a second consecutive defeat at the Californian desert after weathering an opening set setback, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, to win his first ATP Masters 1000 title.
Entering the match being broken just twice in his previous 46 service games, the sixth seed Austrian saved all but two of the eleven total break points he faced in a gutsy two-hour exchange of breaks against Federer to come back to his career-high ranking as world number 4 heading into Miami Open.
After being down 4-5 with Federer inching closer to a record sixth title at 30-30, Thiem then won all of the last three games of the final set to improve his career head-to-head against the Swiss Maestro at 3-2.
“For me, it’s unreal. I enjoyed every second of it. I had to get used to Roger’s game. In the first set, he was playing amazing. I was struggling a little bit, but I fought my way back into the match.
“Roger is one of the biggest legends of all time. It’s amazing that we’re still able to compete against him in these big matches,” Thiem quipped.
Thiem, who just added Chilean Nicolas Massu to his coaching staff, won his 12th career title and just his fourth outside clay.
Meanwhile, the ATP and WTA doubles action featured two surprising runs which included a pair of stunning victories from singles specialists Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka and unseeded duo Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos on Saturday.
Mertens and Sabalenka, ranked 14th and ninth respectively in the WTA Singles tour, upset doubles number ones Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic, 6-3, 6-2, after successfully converting all of the four break point opportunities while also saving six of the seven break points that they faced.
Mektic and Zeballos, on the other hand, shocked the doubles scene in just their second tournament together after defeating four top seeded pairs, including the first, third, and fifth seeds, en route to the title at Indian Wells.
The Croat-Argentine pair’s final victim came in the form of sixth seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo as they defeated the veteran doubles pair 4-6, 6-4, 10-3 in the lengthy title match.
UP NEXT: Tennis stars head from Southern California all the way to Southern Florida as they embark on the final part of the 2019 Sunshine Double at the newly-minted Hard Rock Stadium for the Miami Open.