INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Bianca Andreescu had thought herself a champion many times.
Now it's true.
The 18-year-old Canadian, who practices visualization every morning, upset three-time major champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, becoming the first wild-card winner and second-youngest to claim the title in tournament history.
"The fricking champion of Indian Wells," Andreescu said. "It's crazy."
She overcame nerves, fatigue, arm and leg issues in the final set to earn the first title of her fledgling career.
Andreescu won on her fourth match point when Kerber netted a backhand. She broke Kerber three times in the third set, rallying from a 3-2 deficit to take four of the final five games.
Andreescu dropped her racket near the baseline and fell on her back, her legs in the air as she covered her face in disbelief. After getting up and exchanging kisses with Kerber, the teen bent down and kissed the sunbaked hard court and dropped to her back again, her arms and legs splayed, before grabbing her head.
"This moment has become a reality so it's really, really crazy," Andreescu told the crowd before speaking a bit of Romanian.
Born in Canada, she later moved with her parents to Romania, where she first started playing tennis.
Kerber was the last of five seeded players that Andreescu knocked off in her seven matches.
"When she had the chances, she just go for it," Kerber said.
The Canadian followed in the footsteps of Naomi Osaka, who was a little-known 20-year-old when she won the title last year. Osaka used it as a springboard to win titles at the U.S. and Australian opens while ascending to the No. 1 ranking in January.
"No pressure," Andreescu said, joking.
She's projected to rise 36 spots to No. 24 in the WTA Tour rankings on Monday.
Kerber, ranked eighth, remains without a title since winning Wimbledon last year.
She was a crowd favourite, with fans waving Canadian flags and chanting "Let's go, Bianca! Let's go" in the second set.
They clearly enjoyed Andreescu's fearless style of play. She alternately outpunched opponents from the baseline, tossed up high-arching shots and unleashed well-time drop shots — usually during the same point.
A smiling Andreescu was quick to correct a reporter.
"It's not moonballing," she said. "It's just hitting heavy to her backhand with more spin. We're not under 12 here."
Her most dominant win during the 12-day tournament came in the quarterfinals, a 6-0, 6-1 rout of two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza. In all, the teen knocked out four Top-20 players.
Leading 2-1 in the third, Andreescu took a medical timeout and had a trainer massage her tight right shoulder and arm.
Kerber won the next two games, breaking Andreescu to go up 3-2.
Appearing tired and nervous, Andreescu called for her coach, who urged her to make Kerber play every point.
She did just that.
Andreescu won the next three games, ripping off powerful forehands while winning nine straight points during one stretch, including a 40-love service game.
"I just fought till the end because physically I wasn't feeling too well," she said.
The trainer reappeared again to ice Andreescu's cramping legs.
The teen had three match points on her serve before trying one of her patented drop shots. Kerber raced to get it and sent a forehand down the line to get to deuce.
The German led 40-add on Andreescu's forehand error before the teen made a low-percentage attempt at a drop shot. It landed in the net, leaving Kerber trailing 5-4.
"At the end I was not able to take my chances, but she did," Kerber said.
Andreescu bounced back, putting away a smash to set up her fourth match point before Kerber's backhand error ended it after 2 hours and 18 minutes.
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