MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Bianca Andreescu was so nervous she broke down in tears at the weekend as she prepared to make her return from a 15-month absence but the Canadian showed her mettle on Monday, beating Mihaela Buzarnescu in the Australian Open first round.
The Canadian eighth seed was given a stiff test by Romanian Buzarnescu before advancing with a 6-2 4-6 6-3 victory, her first match since retiring from the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen with a knee injury.
The 2019 U.S. Open champion moved around the John Cain Arena court well and showed no sign of discomfort or nerves.
“Yesterday though I was super, super nervous to be back playing again,” she told reporters. “But today I had a good warmup, everything was fine, and then I was feeling good.
“There were some ups and downs during the match attitude-wise in my opinion, but it’s okay. It’s my first match back; what can I say?”
Despite going through 14 days of hard quarantine after arriving in Australia, Andreescu breezed through the opening set with some aggressive hitting and broke her left-handed opponent’s serve twice.
However, Buzarnescu, 32, raised her game in the second set and levelled the match as Andreescu’s unforced error count began to creep up with the Canadian appearing a bit too eager to hit winners of every shot.
With fatigue setting in from a lack of match practice, Andreescu found herself down 0-40 at 3-3 in the decider but dug deep and managed to find a different gear, holding serve and then winning the next two games, sealing victory with a forehand overhead winner.
Andreescu hit 27 winners compared to 11 from world No. 138 Buzarnescu, though she committed five more unforced errors than the Romanian.
The Canadian next faces a second-round matchup against Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei, who earlier beat U.S. Open quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 7-5 6-2.
“I have played her before, so I kind of know what to expect,” she said of Hsieh.
“She’s a pretty crafty player, so I think that’s going to be a fun match.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford)