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Canada's Andreescu out of National Bank Open after loss to China's Zheng

TORONTO — Although Bianca Andreescu was eliminated from the National Bank Open, the week as a whole felt like a win. Back pain had made it doubtful that Andreescu, from nearby Mississauga, Ont.
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Coco Gauff hits a return to Aryna Sabalenka during National Bank Open tennis action in Toronto, Thursday, August 11, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — Although Bianca Andreescu was eliminated from the National Bank Open, the week as a whole felt like a win.

Back pain had made it doubtful that Andreescu, from nearby Mississauga, Ont., would be able to play in the only Canadian stop on the WTA Tour's schedule, but nearly a week of rest before her first match gave her enough time to recover. The 22-year-old Andreescu played three lengthy matches in Toronto, reaching the Round of 16 where she fell to China's Zheng Qinwen 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, on Thursday.

"I'm just super happy that I was able to play this tournament, first of all," said Andreescu, who was visibly in pain during a first-round loss in San Jose on Aug. 2. "I had no expectations going in. 

"All I wanted to do was enjoy myself as much as I could, have fun, get the crowd going and just give my all. And I think I did that."

Andreescu was the last Canadian playing in the women's singles tournament. Felix Auger-Aliassime is the only Canadian left on the men's side in his hometown of Montreal.

The Sobeys Stadium crowd was very much behind Andreescu throughout the match, including Toronto Blue Jays infielders Santiago Espinal and Bo Bichette as well as Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse. 

"Oh, now I really wish I would have won. Damn it," said Andreescu, putting her head into her hands when she learned De Grasse and the Blue Jays were in the stands.

"To hear that makes me so proud to be Canadian. To have that Canadian support from, not only tennis athletes, but other athletes, it means a lot. Truly."

Zheng will play Karolína Plíšková of the Czech Republic on Friday in the WTA tournament's quarterfinal.

Andreescu made the most of her home court advantage, egging the crowd on after critical points in the second set. 

She pumped her fist and yelled after Zheng's return on game point was well past the baseline. Then Andreescu threw her hands up, encouraging fans to cheer, when Zheng's return was long on set point.

"I really wish I won for you guys," said Andreescu, referring to the fans. "Honestly, without you I don't think I would have gone past the first round. 

"I can't wait to come back, honestly. That's all I'm thinking about right now."

That momentum did not carry into the third set, with Andreescu quickly falling behind 3-1. 

Although Andreescu won a game point, earning her chants of "Let's go Bi-bi!", she gave up three break points as Zheng took a 4-2 lead. A hard forehand smash to the opposite court by Zheng added to that advantage.

Zheng said that although she doesn't like it when fans shout between her first and second serve she's going to work at not getting distracted. Aside from those shouts, Zheng said she wasn't bothered by the Canadian fans.

"This is normal, you know? I'm playing in Canada," she said. "The crowd gives tennis a lot of energy and I like that. The crowd give both of us a lot of power."

Zheng put the match away on a double break point when Andreescu charged the net and the 19-year-old Chinese player put the ball deep but in.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland was stunned by Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 earlier in the day. The unseeded Haddad Maia had already upset 13th-seeded Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., on Wednesday.

The top-ranked Swiatek said the swirling gusts in the bowl-shaped stadium were an issue for her.

"Right now it's hard to say if it was more her game or the wind that really messed up my first set," said Swiatek, who was playing Haddad Maia for the first time. "I think she just used the conditions better than me. 

"When she was playing with the wind she was playing really strong balls and sometimes I was late for them."

Haddad Maia will face Switzerland's Belinda Bencic in the quarters. Bencic made quick work of Spain's Garbine Muguruza in the late match on Thursday, winning 6-1, 6-3 in just over an hour.

The wind was also a factor in Coco Gauff's afternoon win. The American moved on to the quarterfinals with an entertaining and error-filled 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4) win over Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka committed 18 double faults and Gauff hit into 15. Sabalenka had 42 unforced errors overall, while Gauff had 32.

"It was a difficult match for both of us," said Gauff. "Obviously, we were both struggling with the serve. The conditions weren't easy today, a lot of wind."

Gauff will face Romania's Simona Halep in the quarterfinals. Halep, a two-time Canadian Open champion, defeated Switzerland's Jil Teichmann 6-2, 7-5 to begin the day's slate of matches at Centre Court.

Seventh seed Jessica Pegula of the United States came back from a set down to defeat defending champion Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.

Pegula will play Yulia Putintseva in the quarters after the player from Kazakhstan beat Alison Riske-Amritraj of the U.S. 6-3, 7-5.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated Andreescu was the last woman playing in singles or doubles in Toronto. In fact, Gabriela Dabrowski is still playing doubles.

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