NEW YORK — Add Kirsten Flipkens to the growing chorus of people who think Canadian Bianca Andreescu can win the 2019 U.S. Open.
The 33-year-old Belgian said it before their second-round match Thursday.
And after Andreescu defeated her 6-3, 7-5 to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her young career, the veteran even told her so at the net.
"I told her that it was a good match, and that I think she can win this tournament, so she should believe in her abilities," Flipkens said. "It’s clear. If you win Indian Wells and Toronto, you’re a favourite. They’re tournaments with almost the same status as a Grand Slam."
Denis Shapovalov, who followed Andreescu onto Court No. 5 and inherited a strong contingent of Canadian supporters, followed her lead and also advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-2 victory over Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland.
Shapovalov could face No. 13 seed Gael Monfils on Saturday, if Monfils defeats Marius Copil of Romania in his second-round match.
Andreescu played more consistent tennis than she did in her first-round victory over American wild card Katie Volynets. And she needed to keep her cool, with Flipkens’s game style including changing the pace and depth of her shots to upset the opponent’s rhythm.
Typically, Andreescu is the one trying to do that. But on this day, the tables were turned.
"Flipkens is a tricky opponent to play. I’m just really happy with how I managed to deal with what she gave me and with my composure out there," Andreescu said. "There aren’t many girls out there that like to come to the net as much as she does, so I tried my best to handle that as best as I could. I think I did a really good job with that today."
Flipkens isn’t in the habit of pumping up her opponent after she loses. But she’s a canny judge of talent.
Two years ago in the qualifying at the big tournament in Cincinnati, the Belgian was beaten 6-1, 6-0 by a young Australian player just returning to action after a sabbatical. Flipkens recalled thinking she didn’t play badly, and wasn’t even disappointed.
"I knew I was not just losing to a qualifier. I knew this kid had something special," Flipkens wrote on Twitter after Ashleigh Barty won the French Open in June and became world No. 1. "After that match, I said, ‘This kiddo will be top 10 in less than a year, if this is her usual level."’
Andreescu got a little flustered during her press conference when she was asked a question about being up to No. 9 in the live rankings.
Currently ranked No. 15, and with no ranking points to defend from a year ago in New York after losing in the first round of qualifying, the ingredients are there for a top-10 debut if she can keep winning.
The live rankings are a snapshot of where the players sit at any given moment in time. But they can change with every result, especially with so many players bunched in quite tightly at the top of the game.
So it was a little premature. Still, it’s not out of the question.
"You’re kidding me. Really? Close? Wow, no, I don’t really — OK. Give me a sec," she said. "No, I don’t usually check these things. I like to just focus on my game, but that’s — wow. That’s all I can say right now."
There are a number of players still alive in the U.S Open who could overtake her in the rankings unless Andreescu keeps winning.
One of those who could pass her is Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, the No. 19 seed and former world No. 1.
Andreescu and Wozniacki will play in the third round on Saturday.
"I would say that was kind of like my breakthrough tournament, match, too because she was the first-ever player I beat who was in the top 10 before," Andreescu said of Wozniacki, whom she defeated in the tournament in Auckland, N.Z. that launched her 2019 season and first put her on the world’s tennis radar.
To the tape below her left knee from Tuesday, Andreescu added a tight wrap on her upper right leg for the second round. It’s the same leg that was wrapped in the later rounds of her Rogers Cup win.
"I don’t know what you guys think we’re going to say. It’s either something hurts or we’re just preventing something from happening. It’s one or the other," was all Andreescu would say about that.
Later Thursday, Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil looked to back up his upset victory over No. 9 seed Karen Khachanov in the first round as he faced unseeded American Tennys Sandgren, but the Canadian was ousted 3-6, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 4-6.
Pospisil had been off the court since last October and had back surgery in January before returning to action only at Wimbledon. He entered the U.S. Open on a protected injury ranking as his current singles ranking stands at No. 216.