MIAMI — Bianca Andreescu admits she sometimes surprises herself with her ability to chase down tough shots.
"Sometimes I literally feel like I'm an octopus out there, running side to side," the Canadian tennis star said early Friday morning. "I feel like I have eight legs. It's insane, sometimes I don't even know how I get to some shots. It's that fighting spirit that I've always had in me, never giving up."
That competitive drive has been front and centre this week with Andreescu back in the spotlight in a hurry following 16 months off.
The 20-year-old Andreescu, in her third tournament back after the layoff, has won four three-set matches in a row to reach the final of the Miami Open. She will play top-ranked Ash Barty of Australia on Saturday in the championship of the WTA 1000 event — the level directly below Grand Slams in women's tennis.
In her return after a knee injury and a decision to stay off the courts later in the pandemic, the 2019 U.S. Open champion was well off top form and exited in the second round of the Australian Open in February. A trip to the semifinals of a smaller event in Australia followed, but Andreescu injured her leg there and didn't play again until starting in Miami last week.
Now, the native of Mississauga, Ont., is producing a run that has similarities to her journey to the title at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2019. Andreescu won four three-setters in a row at her hometown event, too.
A day off Friday was a nice break for Andreescu after 12 hours 12 minutes of court time in five matches over seven days in Miami. The third-set semifinal tiebreaker against Greece's Maria Sakkari ended at 1:35 a.m. ET and Andreescu didn't wrap up her press conference until close to 3 a.m.
"I found a way somehow and I'm super proud of myself with how I dealt with everything," she said. "It was very up and down, but I did it."
Andreescu, who will move up three spots to No. 6 in the rankings next week, will face Barty for the first time on Saturday.
The champion at Miami and the French Open in 2019, Barty also is coming off a long break. After the pandemic hit last March, she did not play for the rest of 2020.
Barty won a tournament in Australia before the Grand Slam and now has a shot to win back-to-back titles in Miami (the event wasn't held last year).
Both Barty, 24, and Andreescu won their first and only Grand Slam to date in 2019.
"It's going to be great. Definitely have wanted to play her," Andreescu said. "I have my chance on Saturday. I know it's going to be really tough. She's playing great tennis. I hope I can be on my A game."
Barty says she doesn't watch a ton of tennis when she's not playing, but is well aware of what Andreescu brings to the table.
"Bianca has shown in big tournaments that she's got the ability to beat the very best," Barty said. "I know from the little that I have seen that she's got a way of moving around the court that is extremely physical.
"She's got great hands and got options off both sides. She's got a chisel off both sides. She has the ability to flip the ball up or hit through the court. That's what makes her game exceptionally challenging. She's got so many different assets and so many different things she can go to to ultimately let the competitor in her figure it out."
Andreescu is one of many Canadian athletes or teams to be competing in Florida this spring. She has played her best tennis in North America, going 33-1 since the start of 2019.
Andreescu says it helps having familiar faces watching her. Her parents and her dog, Coco, have received plenty of television time in the stands this week.
"My parents are putting her up and making her dance to the music, which is super cute," Andreescu said. "It's nice to have that during these tense moments because I'll throw a little smirk in there and things will be better."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2021.
The Canadian Press