• Reuters


Bianca Andreescu’s comeback after a 15-month absence ended abruptly in the Australian Open second round on Wednesday with a 6-3 6-2 defeat to the wily Hsieh Su-wei but the Canadian leaves Melbourne Park glad her “fighting spirit” is alive.

Former U.S. Open champion Andreescu savored an emotional first-up win against lucky loser Mihaela Buzarnescu on Monday but hit a brick wall in the form of Taiwanese giantkiller Hsieh in the early match at Rod Laver Arena.

“I got off the court and I was looking at my coach, and I said I’m just disappointed that today that was my all because I know I gave my all today and to me I think that was the most disappointing part,” the 20-year-old Andreescu told reporters.

“I didn’t put expectations on myself. There’s always unconscious expectations for sure, but verbal expectations, not really.

“So I’m just going to take this as a learning curve and bounce back for the next tournament.”

Andreescu, who stunned the tennis world by beating Serena Williams for the 2019 title at Flushing Meadows, attacked Hsieh with her usual gusto but the Taiwanese, double-handed on both sides, was brilliant in defense and confounded the Canadian with an array of drop shots and angled winners.

With no apparent Plan B, eighth seed Andreescu doubled down on the power game and the unforced errors piled up as she slumped to a 5-2 deficit in the second set and then bowed out meekly with a double-fault on match point.

Prior to Australia, Andreescu had not played since the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen and was one of 72 players unable to train during their 14-day hard quarantine in Melbourne.

Adding to the challenges, her coach Sylvain Bruneau tested positive for COVID-19 after landing in Australia last month.

Yet there were no excuses from Andreescu, unlike a number of players who blamed inadequate preparations for their exits.

“I know that my preparation was the best preparation that I think I’ve ever had,” said Andreescu. “So I feel confident with that.

“I think now it’s just getting back into play, and it’s good to know that I still have that fighting spirit in me.

“I’m able to give it my all on the court. I think you see that more in the first match than this match, but also being healthy.

“I feel really good. After my first round, I thought I would feel more exhausted, but I felt amazing.”

In other action in Melbourne, a relaxed Serena Williams was untroubled by Nina Stojanovic on Wednesday, as the 23-time Grand Slam champion continued her ominous form at Melbourne Park.

The 39-year-old maintained her unbeaten run since emerging from 14-day quarantine with a 6-3, 6-0 second-round drubbing in 69 minutes.

“l wasn’t thinking as much in the second, as I was in the first,” said Williams, who hit 27 winners. “I’m here to have fun and it’s great to be playing in front of a crowd.”

American Serena Williams and Serbia's Nina Stojanovic touch their rackets after the women's singles match on day three of the Australian Open. | AFP-JIJI
American Serena Williams and Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic touch their rackets after the women’s singles match on day three of the Australian Open. | AFP-JIJI

The 10th seed started with a sizzling backhand winner and maintained a vice-like grip over the Serb, breaking in the opening game of the second set and sealing victory with her sixth ace.

Williams reprized her multicolored, one-legged catsuit — a flamboyant outfit inspired by late sprint queen Florence Griffith Joyner, popularly known as “Flo-Jo.”

The 10th seed has been in strong form so far as she chases Margaret Court’s record Grand Slam tally of 24.

The seven-time Australian Open champion has been battling shoulder and Achilles issues but has shown no ill-effects on court.

Playing her unparalleled 100th Australian Open match, she had thrashed Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 in the first round and faces Anastasia Potapova of Russia in the third round.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.