Mar/19

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Kenin v Andreescu in Acapulco Semis

Bianca Andreescu, 18, of Canada by Romanian descent and Sofia (she likes to be called Sonia) Kenin, 20 of the United States via Russia, are battling in Acapulco in the semis. Andreescu went up early 3-1 and then doled out a number of double faults and started slicing her forehand a good deal and lost the first set 6-4.

Andreescu is the highest-ranked female player in Canada having reached the finals of Auckland as a qualifier and having beaten the former no. 1 Canadian, Genie Bouchard, 0 and 2 in a Challenger after the Aussie Open. While both players are rising fast in the rankings neither one has the size (both are 5-7) or the power of shot (Kenin has a solid backhand, but neither is a power player).

Lindsay Davenport, the former no. 1, says that Kenin who has recently reached her highest WTA ranking of no. 35, says that for a player to get into the top 10, she needs to have a big weapon and Kenin does not. Halep, who’s about the same size, has her footwork; Kvitova has her power. Davenport says that Kenin needs to get a much better serve. She pointed out that Kenin isn’t even jumping inside the baseline at the end of her first serve.

Andreescu is playing very spotty in this match. She’s double-faulting, hitting slice forehands and missing returns off of serves that are in her wheelhouse. She looks to me more like a Niculescu-like player who tries to disrupt her opponent’s game rather than beat her with her own game. Davenport now is praising Andreescu for jumping into the court as she serves and the young Canadian just hit a big forehand inside-out for a winner. She’s wearing an odd strap or bracelet just above her right elbow. It isn’t clear whether she’s doing so for fashion or therapeutic reasons.

I like Andreescu’s demeanor on the court. She looks cool, confident, strong and relaxed in contrast to Kenin, who’s coached by her father, and is very intense, but seemingly nervous and tight. Andreescu looks much more outgoing while Kenin is shy. Although, Kenin swings out on her shots much more than Andreescu and she does have a big shot as I see it: a very clean and decisive backhand.

Each has held serve to start the second set and it’s knotted at 2-all. Andreescu now is not playing to disrupt Kenin’s game anymore; she’s going for her shots. Andreescu is not hitting many winners, but she’s a very smart player with good angles and her serve is getting bigger and better as the match progresses.

My son, who’s watching the match with me, points out that Kenin doesn’t have real tennis legs, her muscles in her legs are not defined, particularly her calves. The Canadian has legs more like Milos Raonic, but stockier and shorter. At deuce, Andreescu plays two beautiful points, winning both with a short forehand angle that elicited an error and then a nifty forehand carved drop shot that dropped velvety over the net far out of Kenin’s reach.

Andreescu has a little Jennifer Capriati in her, a little bad girl persona to her, although she looks a lot more together than Capriati at this age mentally, and her game incorporates a lot more finesse and touch. Kenin just gets broken to go down 2-3 and she’s a bit churlish and my son points out that she doesn’t have the best attitude on the court.

Kenin will never be a fan favorite; her court persona is too insular. She’s attractive as is Andreescu, but she has no interest in playing too the fans or even smiling. Kenin likes to play quick between points and Andreescu is smartly making her wait and slowing her down. Andreescu is stepping in now more and hitting her shots much harder than she was earlier in the match and she’s rewarded with a break to go up 5-3.

Andreescu is the more fun player to watch. She goes from playing with a lot of junk to hitting blasts and angles off her forehand. She’s also more of the Rocky-like player and is the more athletic of the two players while Kenin is clearly the cleaner ball-striker. Andreescu loves the forehand drop shot and she pulls another one off to even the third set at 2-2. Davenport says with her touch and spins and variety, Andreescu is not the typical player at all and it’ll be interesting to see how the teen puts it all together in the coming years.

In the all-important seventh game of the third set, Kenin blinks and at deuce she double-faults and then hits a rally ball well long off her backhand. Andreescu pumps her fist as she charges to her chair. Kenin breaks back at 15 as Andreescu air-mails a forehand. Kenin clearly is the player with more heavy artillery.

Kenin has a key around her neck and she looks like she’s unlocking the riddle to Andreescu’s game as the Romanian-Canadian starts dicing and slicing the ball more in losing the next game at 15 too. Now Andreescu is down 4-5, but she’s serving. It goes to deuce, but Andreescu hits a good kick serve to the Kenin backhand and then rams her forehand into the corner for 5-all.

There’s little to no ego in Davenport’s announcing and that’s refreshing compared to Johnny Mac or Jim Courier, who always like to let you know they were once no. 1 players. Davenport says she loves how these players are both such great fighters at such a young age. Davenport mentions how mentally strong Kenin is to be serving so well in the biggest game of the match, but she just double-faults for deuce. Andreescu tried to change the pace at deuce, but ends up bailing out of the game and goes to her chair down 5-6.

Andreescu is getting herself in trouble when she tries to change the pace and arc of her shots. She’s better when she’s going for her shots. Andreescu air-mails a backhand long and Kenin has a watch point, but Andreescu hits a great second serve mixing up her location and going for the wide kick that Kenin nets. Andreescu goes for a short forehand and hits it into the net. Andreescu air-mails another ball long on her backhand and Kenin wins 7-5 in the third set.

DAvenport lauds Kenin for winning even though she didn’t play her best tennis during stretch of the matches. She is a great competitor as is Andreescu, but Kenin at this stage is the player with the more classical and bigger strokes. If Andreescu is going to be a big-time winner, it’s my estimation, she’s going to do so in the more unconventional Radwanska-like style. It’s going to be interesting to see how this rivalry develops and whether either player or both will be able to challenge their more successful rival in age, Naomi Osaka.

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27 comments

  • Hartt · March 2, 2019 at 7:24 am

    Dan, I couldn’t see this match, so was glad to read your description of it. I was surprised when you said that Bianca was trying to disrupt Kenin’s game rather than trying to beat her with her own game. Bianca is normally an aggressive player who likes to have the match on her terms. It sounds like she started to do that more as the match went on.

    I enjoy watching Bianca because she has so much variety, instead of just bashing from the baseline. It seems like she wasn’t at her best in this match but, as you said, she is a good competitor.

    Bianca received a WC for Indian Wells so she won’t have to play the qualies. The extra few days for a break should help, she has played a lot of tennis since the start of the season. She has gone from No. 152 at the beginning of the season to No. 60.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 2, 2019 at 7:38 am

    This was the first time I’ve gotten to see Andreescu play and I was impressed. I’d seen Kenin play earlier this year in Tasmania and she is a special player. Both young women are average height, more like Sloane Stephens but a little shorter and yes Andreescu used a lot of slices off of both sides. Both players rarely ventured to the net. Kenin is such a good ball striker that she makes you play more of a disruptive style I think because she’s hard to beat in straight baseline rallies. Lenin is just coaches by her father while Bianca had a young bearded coach as well as a young blonde woman who seemed also to be a coach or supporter. Kenin reminds me of Kerber or Halep with better strokes but not the court coverage and Bianca of Capriati with more foot speed, but not the weight and pace of shot. Hard to say who has bigger upside or whether either woman will be slam winner, but they’re both more aggressive than Wozniaki.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 2, 2019 at 7:50 am

    kenin is really taking off this year. Art Seitz, the south Florida cameraman, has been hyping Kenin up since she was about 7. She is a very nice girl, she was at Herr a couple of years ago and didn’t win it but boy oh boy is she looking good now. The ball jumps off her strings, she really gets good racquet speed and flow on her shots, perfect synchronicity with her whole body and arm, feels the ball so well. Andreescu is not as flashy, more of a bull with matador intelligence. We will be seeing a lot more of both of these rising forces.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 2, 2019 at 7:57 am

    I saw Kenin hit many winners, she has power off both sides. Andreescu is a sneaky player who likes to try to disrupt opponents, in the past I’ve seen her feign injury and then roar back with no sign of any injury. She is a crafty clever minded player who will use trickery. Kenin is not introverted, she is very focused and serious. This is a big moment for her. Maybe most importantly, this was the first article by Dan on women’s tennis in about four years. Catherine will be very pleased. 🙂

  • Dan Markowitz · March 2, 2019 at 8:18 am

    You’re right Scoop, women’s tennis is not my forte, but I’m interested when I see new players take the spotlight because for so many years now in the women’s game it seems like it’s been Serena, The Woz, Azarenka, Venus, Kerber, Halep, Kvitova and Murguruza who again and again are the only players with a chance to win a slam. There’s been a little more young blood on the men’s side.

    It might be sexist of me to say though that also it’s interesting when two young women come on the scene to admire or take interest in their sexuality on the court. Like it or not, women’s tennis does have that IT Factor of which women are not only great players, but also attractive and sexual in nature. Obviously, Chris Evert was watched more than say Navratilova or Billie Jean King (and not only because those two women were gay), but because she got involved in romantic relationships with male tennis players and she was cool to watch–from a man’s perspective and probably a woman’s too–because she was blonde and Floridian and had a body that made the imagination whirl.

    Both Andreescu and Kenin are attractive and have a smoldering sexuality to them. Kenin is probably the more attractive of the two–there’s a little Kounikova to her looks–but Andreescu plays up her looks and sexuality more and she’s the more lively of the two.

    I guess the word I’m looking for is sultry. And Andreescu has a lot of it. She wears her skirt hiked up high. She wears wild purple and black Nikes. She looks like the more fun of the two by a wide margin. She’s no Camilia Georgi in sultriness, but she’s got some of that playing for her. I’d be a little concerned over her game if I were her handler just because she does play a lot in that Niculescu-style of game and while that can be mildly successful, it rarely results in big success.

  • catherine · March 2, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Hmmm- not sure what response I could make about the comments on sexual appeal, except to say it’s a good deal more complicated than might appear.

    Great deal of subjectiveness involved. I wouldn’t say Chris was watched more than Martina or BJK because of her sexual appeal – she didn’t seem to have that much to me, actually, and some men I know just found her commonplace in looks etc. And BJK’s sexuality was not generally known until the end of her career. She was watched, though maybe not greatly loved, because she was very very good – same with Martina, same with Steffi. And same with Chris, who had the magnetic attraction of enormous celebrity when very young.

    Can’t see the ‘smouldering sexuality’ in either Kenin or Andreescu. But that’s being subjective again. All I can say is – once we get into discussing women players on the basis of their sex appeal we’re on pretty shaky ground – and as for the players themselves – if they concentrate more on their IT factor than prowess on the court – they won’t be winning any GSs.

    I don’t find this stuff offensive, although some would, just seems to me irrelevant. And it’s good to bear in mind that many public figures aren’t the way they seem. Eg, Some players, both men and women, have a gay following, which doesn’t mean they are themselves gay, and I’m not saying who they are.

    Scoop – Dan has written on women’s tennis before,and not so long ago. He wrote in praise of Sabalenka, who immediately started losing matches 🙂
    I can’t believe Art Seitz is still around.

  • Hartt · March 2, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Bianca’s coach is Sylvain Bruneau, until recently captain of Canada’s Fed Cup team, although I don’t think he was in Acapulco. The young blond woman is probably a trainer with Tennis Canada who acted as Bianca’s coach in Auckland.

    I am surprised to see Bianca compared to Niculescu. While she uses slices and drop shots, and will hit the occasional loopy ball in defense, her main style is to be very aggressive, if anything, a bit too aggressive. I’ve seen many Bianca matches,both on the tour and in Fed Cup. It sounds like this was an uncharacteristic match for her.

    One thing I like about the youngster is that she is a fighter. That was clear in Canada’s Fed Cup tie last spring. Abanda was injured at the last minute and Bianca had to fill in for her without any preparation. She cramped so badly late in the match that she was wheeled off the court in a wheelchair, in tears. But with both Abanda and Bouchard injured (Genie gave her all to win her singles match), Bianca had to play the doubles the next day. And she and Dabrowski won against a tough doubles team, to take the tie.

  • Hartt · March 2, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    As far as talking about the players’ looks or sex appeal I don’t have a huge problem with it as long as it is not over the top, and as long as we also talk about the men’s looks. Because women fans do pay attention to that, and we weren’t happy when the long, baggy shorts were so popular with the men. That said, I sometimes wish that there wasn’t so much emphasis on the women players’ looks, and the WTA itself is a big culprit in that department.

    As far as Bianca goes, I never thought of her as all that sultry on the court, although in photos, including her WTA site pic, she sometimes does try for a sultry look. And she does pay attention to her appearance, with those super long eyelashes so fashionable now.

    What I find more interesting about Bianca is that she is a huge animal lover, and even rescues stray dogs and cats when she visits Romania.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 2, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Sex appeal among female players and male players (who can forget the appeal of Borg or Agassi later on and probably guys like Paradorn Schriphan and Yannick Noah and there are more of course) is always a topic I find interesting. In writing the book with Spadea, obviously the players find it interesting too as he said if you think there’s competition on the court amongst the male players, you should see the way they react to the girlfriends and wives that are brought into the players lounge.

    That being said, I think whether its Sloane Stephens or Madison Keys or even Alison Riske, who I hear is engaged to Armitraj’s son, I think fans wonder and are interested in their boyfriends and their appeal to the opposite and possibly same sex. I don’t know, just watching the match last night, I felt Andreescu especially, the way she walks and wears her outfit, has a pretty powerful sexuality to her.

    I don’t think this affects the players once they’re in the match, but again I think the female players are aware of who’s more attractive or sexually-attractive to the the fans, players and Madison Avenue, and has it’s impact. Look at a player like Bouchard or Kournikova, they were once at the top of the game, and then I can make the argument and will that their good looks and sexuality hurt them as they focused more on enhancing those features then working on their games and staying on top.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 2, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Chris Evert was a very attractive figure for tennis, in fact she was the one who got me into tennis when I asked her for an autograph in the lobby of a Boston hotel in about 1973 or 74. My parents didn’t know much about tennis, never played, but they knew who she was sitting on a lobby couch and told my brother and I to get her autograph and we did and she could not have been nicer. She my have been my first boyhood crush, or was it Denise Ducey in second grade? A few years later I began to watch tennis on TV and liked it and followed it because of Chris Evert first and foremost because she was so mice to me that day, then later liked Connors. Chris Evert definitely had sex appeal and I would rank her with Kournikova and Bouchard in that department, but she was a far greater player despite her beauty and charms.

  • Hartt · March 2, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    The other aspect of good looks and sex appeal is that we have different tastes in what we find attractive. So we will never all agree on which players have the IT factor.

    I guess I am more interested in charisma on the court, and many players who aren’t particularly good looking do have charisma, and they are fun to watch.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 2, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Suzanne Lenglen was not considered a raving sultry beauty but she captivated the world with her game. You all got me using the word sultry now. What does it mean?

  • catherine · March 3, 2019 at 1:42 am

    Kenin’s smouldering sexuality succumbed to Wang’s efficient stolidity in Acapulco final – Wang bt Kenin in 3.

    Kyrgios bt Zverev in 2 – Are either of those two pin-up boys? I wish Nick would change his hairstyle.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 3, 2019 at 8:44 am

    Wang vs Kenin was a toss up, both could have easily won. The Chinese are coming on strong now. So many more young talents from China coming up the ranks too. Nice win for Federer to get 100, Prince Stefanos seemed almost happy to be a part of the festivities and tribute to the King of tennis.

  • Chazz · March 3, 2019 at 9:56 am

    Saw a little of Wang-Kenin, the difference in the end seemed to be Wang’s serve. Kyrgios moved up 41 spots to #31 with the win. Pretty remarkable.

  • catherine · March 3, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Wang is nearly 25, so she’s been around for a while. She has a nice versatile game but no real killer shot that I could see, although I haven’t seen that much of her I admit.

    What’s interesting about China, it’s such a vast country that you find players across so many physical types – build, weight etc. The male players are on the small side for tennis. Tall chinese men seem to go for basketball.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 3, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Wang is taking the late bloomer route, like Li Na and Shuai Zhang did. Also I’m fairly certain the first Chinese stars – the ones who won Olymic gold in doubles – were well past 25 when they won the Gold. Peng Shuai also had her best success past age 25. The Chinese pattern is to achieve best success past 25 but of course be ready for the exception to the rule.

  • Hartt · March 4, 2019 at 11:37 am

    A new topic, but this is the most active thread, so will post it here.

    In looking to see where Brayden Schnur is in the rankings now (No.106), I was surprised to see that Ryan Harrison had dropped 11 spots to No.104. I haven’t been following him lately. What happened?

  • Thomas Tung · March 4, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Harrison wasn’t able to sustain the momentum he got when he won the Memphis title in 2017. He’s been in 3 other finals since that win, but couldn’t break through. On a lesser scale, he fits into the same “role” as Tsonga, Gasquet, Nishikori, Monfils, etc … very good, but not quite good enough.

    The true “breakthrough” from the control of the Big Three is coming from the youngsters of the “NextGen” — guys like Tsitsipas, Shapovalov, De Minaur, and so on. I don’t think you’ll see Borna Coric being a Slam contender, despite generally good results, due to his lacking a big weapon — something that the Big Three do have. Also, Coric isn’t nearly as tactically brilliant as a Nalbandian, and doesn’t have that sheer willpower as a Courier/Chang/Hewitt/De Minaur has, not even close (I’m sure that Borna works much harder than most, but those three are in an entirely different category). My gut tells me that Coric will always be a “very good, but never great” player.

  • Hartt · March 4, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    I haven’t watched Coric closely enough to know if he could be a Slam contender, but he has improved his game since he started working with Piatti as a coach.

    I would love to see one or more of the youngsters start to wrest control from the Big 3. The Big 3 dominance has gone on for so long that it makes tennis less interesting. At least some of them, such as Sascha and Karen, are winning Masters now, so that is a pleasant change.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 4, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Whoa, Thomas, hold on there…you’re putting Harry in the same category as Tsonga, Monfils, Nishikori and Gasquet?? You’re kidding, right. Those guys are all either slam finalists or semi-finalists. Harry has gotten to the 3rd round of a slam only twice and he’s been on tour since 2008! Harry isn’t even in the same category as guys like Spadea, Tarango and Gambill. Maybe he’s the equal of Kudla and Gimelstob.

    Harry has won a total of 86 matches on tour and 14 slam matches. Tsonga has won 442 matches and 118, respectively. Where’s the comparison? And don’t say doubles.

  • Dan Markowitz · March 4, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Also, Thomas, you’re saying De Minaur has a bigger weapon than Coric? One guy’s 5-11 tops (they list him at 6, but I don’t think so) and the other is 6’2. What exactly is De Minaur’s weapon? Saying his determination I think is a bit sketchy. De Minaur has had a bad year so far. He got creamed by Nadal at the Aussie O and his best win is against Gilles Simon so far.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 4, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Hartt, Harrison has not been winning any matches. He’s been faltering for about the last year. Can’t remember a single good win he had in the last year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 4, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Yes THomas I agree, Coric will probably be another Dimitrov, some big results and close calls but no cigar. But he is dangerous and if he can get hot and get a good roll going he could pull off something like Johansson or even Wawrinka. People forget, Wawrinka looked like a mediocre basic top 40 player. Then he suddenly put it all together and became a big champion. Coric could do it too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 4, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Did anyone see that Thiem is now working with Nico Massu? Will be his traveling coach for a short tryout stint. Good idea to hire a guy who was a top player and achieved major results – double gold in the 2004 Olympics.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 4, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Harrison has yet to crack the top 40, he was on the fringe of it a couple of times but couldn’t get up in there into the top 25. Last I saw he was working with David Sanguinetti but nothing substantial happened since they joined forces about a year ago.

  • Scoop Malinowski · March 4, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Deminaur’s best weapon is the same weapon that Lleyton Hewitt had – unbelievable, extraordinary fighter who can make the impossible possible. Tremendous fighter who steals a lot of wins by his will and fighting spirit. Deminaur has had a good year so far, he’s racked up a bunch of wins already but no big wins just yet. Deminaur is rising up the ranks steadily.

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