Teenage sensation at Miami Open attempting to do what only three before her have done

Bianca Andreescu of Canada reacts after a play against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania during their match at the Miami Open tennis tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Bianca Andreescu of Canada reacts after a play against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania during their match at the Miami Open tennis tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

The newest sensation on the WTA Tour was at it again Thursday at the Miami Open.

Exuberant 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu, coming off her first title last Saturday at Indian Wells, was one point away from defeat at Hard Rock Stadium before rebounding from a 1-5 deficit in the second set to win five consecutive games and ultimately defeat Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 in the first round.

Andreescu, a Canadian with Romanian parents, ended 2018 ranked No. 178 in the world. On Monday she rose to No. 24, and is now attempting to become only the fourth woman to win Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back — the others being Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996, Kim Clijsters in 20015 and Victoria Azarenka in 2016. Not too shabby company.

“It would mean everything to me,’’ said Andreescu, who by defeating current World No. 4 (then-No. 8) Angelique Kerber last week became the first wild-card entrant and youngest Indian Wells winner since Serena Williams in 1999. “Winning in Indian Wells was incredible, but, I mean, If I win back-to-back that would be even more incredible. If I keep making history then I just keep accomplishing my goals. So, if I have my name alongside those amazing players it would definitely mean a lot.’’

Andreescu also faced No. 70 Begu in the first round of Indian Wells, where she was down 3-1 in the final set before mounting her victorious rally. On Thursday, with Begu leading 5-2, 40-30 in the second set, the scrappy Andreescu saved the match point, won the next two to break Begu and dominated thereafter.

“You never know what the day brings,’’ Andreescu said of her match, originally scheduled for Wednesday night on Stadium Court, but postponed because of rain and moved to late Tuesday afternoon on a side court at Hard Rock. “I was ready. I didn’t have any problems with the rain delay. I prepared the same way I do every match, but it wasn’t easy. She’s a great fighter.

“Maybe I needed to almost lose to wake up.”

Known for her finesse in mastering different types of shots and styles of play, Andreescu used her nifty drop shots at times as well as backhand volleys, down-the-line zingers and lazy lobs to likely frustrate Begu, whose expression between games became more painful by the minute.

“The harder the battle the sweeter the victory,’’ Andreescu said.

Last week after her momentous win, the dark-haired, dark-eyed teenager who favors yoga and meditation, exclaimed to the media: “The F-ing champion of Indian Wells! It’s crazy.”

She said last week she was “actually really dizzy in the locker room because there were so many thoughts and emotions going through my body.’’ Visualizing herself “in tough situations’’ before matches “definitely helps,’’ Andreescu said. “I try to breathe as much as I can to get into the zone.’’

Andreescu, who started playing tennis at age 7, is accompanied this week by her parents. She still is trying to finish her high school academics online, and in her spare time enjoys “going to basketball games, concerts, hanging with my friends, watching movies, a lot of Netflix, trying different restaurants, eating different types of foods.

“Not that interesting.”

This is Andreescu’s first trip to the Miami Open, which previously was played on Key Biscayne.

“This one is definitely really nice,’’ she said. “The Stadium Court is huge. I’m really enjoying the atmosphere. The weather isn’t too bad. I thought it would be more humid, but it’s been good. The food is great. I can’t complain.”

Next up for Andreescu in the third match of the day Friday on Court 2, is American Sofia Kenin, ranked 34th.

“She gets to a lot of balls,’’ Andreescu said. “She rarely misses. She fights really hard. I played her in Acapulco, lost 7-5 in the third, so I know it’s not going to be any easy match.

“I’m going to get as much fluid in my body as possible. I already did an ice bath, did a good cooldown. See the physio, watch some Netflix tonight, eat a good dinner, and I’ll be ready for tomorrow.”

Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.