Indian Wells champs Andreescu, Thiem prove 'anything is possible'

Andreescu's determination pushed her to victory (2:23)

Chris Evert and Patrick McEnroe detail the mental and physical adversity that Bianca Andreescu of Canada overcame to win at Indian Wells. (2:23)

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- If Dominic Thiem needed a reminder that anything was possible before his stunning three-set upset of 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the men's final of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu provided that pep talk.

With her 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over three-time Slam champion Angelique Kerber earlier in the day, Andreescu became the first wild card to win the prestigious Indian Wells women's title, the tournament's youngest winner since Serena Williams in 1999 and only the fourth unseeded player to hoist the trophy -- joining Williams (1999), Kim Clijsters (2005) and Naomi Osaka (2018).

By the end of the third set, Andreescu was playing injured, visibly exhausted, with cramps crippling her legs and against one of the fittest, toughest women in tennis. And yet, at least for one day in the California desert, the young Canadian outfought one of the sport's greatest fighters.

"Today was one of the toughest matches I've ever played," Andreescu said afterward. "I learned how much determination I have, and that no matter what the score is, anyone can come back. Anything is possible. I think I proved that today."

Talk about prematch inspiration. Apparently, Thiem was listening.

Despite dropping the first set to Federer, who looked every bit the eventual champion at the start of the match, the 25-year-old Austrian rallied to take the second set and then, in the 11th game of the final set, foiled Federer on back-to-back drop shot attempts before breaking him with a beauty of a crosscourt forehand. Thiem then closed out the match on his serve, winning his first Masters 1000 title and the biggest tournament of his career 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. He grabbed his head and then dropped to the court, his arms and legs splayed in the same pose Andreescu struck after winning the biggest singles title in Canadian history.

"It feels unreal what happened in 10 days during the tournament," Thiem said after his win. "I came from really bad form in all categories, and now I'm the champion of Indian Wells. It feels not real at all. Just amazing that I got here, my first really big title."

What happened a few hours earlier was perhaps even more amazing.

From the first ball Sunday, Andreescu showed no sign of the nerves that might accompany playing in her first WTA final and against a 31-year-old woman who was contesting her 29th final and ranked No. 8 in the world. But then again, Andreescu had already taken down five top-20 players this year -- three in this tournament alone -- and earned more match wins (28 after Sunday) than any other woman in tennis.

On the strength of her trademark variety and power, Andreescu earned four break points in the opening game against Kerber, and then took the game on a double fault. But then Kerber steadied; Andreescu didn't break her again until midway through the third set, when the 18-year-old evened the score at 3-all.

That was the moment the match turned and an unknown teen from Mississauga, Ontario, proved her storybook run would be no short story. "It's been a crazy ride, truly a Cinderella story," Andreescu said. "Naomi [Osaka] did this last year. And now to be able to have my name next to so many amazing champions, it means the world to me."

After dropping the second set and falling behind 3-2 in the third, Andreescu called the trainer and her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, to her chair during the changeover for the second time that set. While the trainer worked on her right arm, massaging her biceps and forearm while Andreescu drank Gatorade and held ice bags to her thighs, Bruneau attempted to infuse positivity into a bleak moment. To Andreescu's right, Kerber sat alone, three games from a win. There was no ice towel around her neck, no trainer or coach by her side, and she showed no visible signs she was feeling the effects of the hottest temperatures of the tournament

"You're going to need to push through it, to stay strong under adversity," Bruneau said to his student.

"But I'm so tired," Andreescu said. Then she took an audible breath. "I want this so bad." Desire dripped from every word.

"I want to hear that," Bruneau said. "Keep working her. Keep working her hard. And watch out for her down-the-line forehand."

When Andreescu walked back onto court, she was a changed player. She began making shots for which Kerber had no defense. Andreescu's lethal forehand winners became even more precise -- she ripped 19 forehand winners in the third set alone -- and she began to dictate the points, moving Kerber around the court like a puppeteer, going for it on every shot in an attempt to shorten the points. Although she struggled physically between points -- bending over and stretching and breathing deeply -- she was focused and determined once the ball was sent into play.

"Mind over matter," Andreescu said in her post-title news conference. "That moment [with Bruneau] was everything to me. He really helped me with such incredible words. It gives me chills. I'm glad I called him at that moment. At that point, I was really, really tired."

And what was it like after their chat, when she felt herself slipping into "the zone"?

"Nothing can distract me," she said. "I'm relaxed. I trust myself. I trust my shots. I feel confident. I try to breathe as much as I can. In this tournament, I have been in the zone, I think, every match."

The same could be said for her season. Andreescu ended 2018 ranked No. 178 in the world. She leaves Indian Wells with a check for $1.35 million and a top-30 ranking.

"It's crazy what a year can do," she said. "A year ago, I was playing 25K's in Japan, and now I'm the -- can I say the F word? No. I can't."

She paused, smiled.

"I'm the effing champion of Indian Wells."

She might as well have been speaking for Thiem, too.