Andreescu continues hot streak, qualifies for Aussie Open

Associated Press
Peter King on NBC Sports

MELBOURNE, Australia — Bianca Andreescu has followed up her wins last week over defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and seven-time major winner Venus Williams by qualifying for the season’s first Grand Slam tournament.

The 18-year-old Canadian would like to follow it up with another win over a big-name player – like No. 1 Simona Halep or Serena Williams.

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First things first, though. After beating Tereza Smitkova on Friday to earn a spot in the main draw of a major for only the second time – her first was at Wimbledon in 2017 – Andreescu ended up with a first-round match against American wild-card entry Whitney Osuigwe, who finished last year ranked No. 226.

They’re in the same half as Halep and seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams, but in the lower quarter.

“With what happened last week, I think I can get pretty far into next week,” said Andreescu, who was leading 6-0, 4-1 when Smitkova retired with an injury. “And I’m just using momentum from last week. Hopefully I can do that next week as well.

“I think I used it pretty well in the qualifying matches, so I’m really pleased.”

Andreescu reached the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand last week, beating Wozniacki, Venus Williams and third-seeded Hsieh Su-wei before losing to Julia Goerges in three sets.

She raced from Auckland to Melbourne to enter qualifying, something she’s hoping her rise up the rankings will help her avoid at the next major.

“My goal was to, at the beginning of the year, was to get into the French Open main draw right away – not having to go through qualies,” she said. “I think I’m one step closer to that.”

Andreescu moved up 45 places last week to No. 107, and attracted a lot of attention at home.

“Definitely, yeah. I’m getting a lot of messages. I’m getting a lot of followers, especially from politicians, which really amazed me,” she said. “It’s really an honor – I’m really grateful for everyone’s support.

“I got a message from a little girl, just saying that she’s starting to play tennis because of me. That was pretty amazing.”

It was some advice a couple of years ago from Halep, who told her to play more pro events rather than juniors, that helped set Andreescu on her way.

“I think I’m getting more and more experience playing on big stages, and I think that’s going to be help me with everything,” Andreescu said. “It’s amazing. It’s my second time qualifying for a major. I’m really pleased with my game right now. and how my body is holding up, and my mental, too.”

On the men’s side, 22-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis had a 6-4, 6-4 win over Canadian Peter Polanski to earn his spot in the main draw after contentiously missing out on a qualifying spot following a series of injuries.

Kokkinakis, who notched a win over Roger Federer last year, later said missing out on the wild card certainly served as motivation. He will play Taro Daniel of Japan in the first round.

Dan Evans, who hit a spinning-around backhand winner early in the qualifying tournament that is an early contender for shot of the year, qualified for his first major since returning from a 12-month ban for a doping infringement last year when he beat Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-3. He will open against fellow qualifier Tatsuma Ito.

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