Sports

Meet Bianca Andreescu, Canada’s teen titan of tennis

In yet another 2019 moment that has left Canadian sports fans wondering if they’re dreaming, teenage tennis sensation Bianca Andreescu, of Mississauga, Ont., is within a racket-arm’s reach of clinching the U.S. Open. Now there’s just one little obstacle in the 19-year-old’s way: Serena Williams, who is about twice Andreescu’s age and debatably the best tennis player of all time. But Williams has been plagued by injuries of late, and is possibly past her peak. Andreescu, on the other hand, has rocketed up more than 100 places in the Women’s Tennis Association global rankings, from 152nd at the end of 2018 to 15th going into Saturday’s final match. The National Post’s Genna Buck spells out some of the factors that define Bianca Andreescu and her remarkable ascent.

First things first: How do you say her name?


Bianca Andreescu (Canada) answers questions during a media conference after defeating Serena Williams (USA) in the womens final of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Aviva Centre.

Dan Hamilton-USA Today

Announcers and fans alike tend to mangle it, but in a video, Andreescu herself pronounces her surname Ann-dress-coo, with slight emphasis on the last syllable. Her parents, Maria Andreescu, a finance executive, and Nicu Andreescu, an engineer, are originally from Romania. The family lived there for a few years when she was a child, though Bianca was born in Canada.

She’s a hoot on a hot mic


Bianca Andreescu (left) tries to console Serena Williams (left) after she withdrew from the championship match during the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Aviva Centre.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY

At least in the context of the famously buttoned-up, crisply pressed sport of tennis, Andreescu has a tendency towards fresh language. When an ESPN reporter asked how she found her stride between sets, she said she knew she needed to get her “it” together, just barely stopping herself before uttering the preceding “sh.” She went on to say she “didn’t get too pissed” about having to deal with the hot weather. And in an exemplary display of sportsmanship last month, she embraced a tearful Serena Williams when the latter had to withdraw from the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto, reassuring her, “You’re a f-cking beast.”

While Yves Boulais, tennis director of the Ontario Racquet Club, where Andreescu trains, said the young player could stand to “polish a little bit of her media appearance,” his 19-year-old daughter Isabelle Boulais thinks her honesty is awesome.

“She has a very open personality. Anything that she’s shown to the media is literally her,” said Isabelle, who has been friends with Andreescu for five years and trained alongside her at the club. Sure, she doesn’t conform to the standards of the sport “from, like, the 1800s,” said Isabelle, who now plays tennis for Ohio State University. “She just doesn’t hide anything — anything she’s feeling, anything that is going through her head, she’s showing it on-court, and I love it.”

She loves dogs


Maria Andreescu, mother of Bianca Andreescu (Canada) holds her daughter’s pet dog Coco, as she watches her daughter win the womens final of the Rogers Cup tennis tournament against Serena Williams (USA) at Aviva Centre.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY

Andreescu’s caramel-coloured, curly-haired dog, Coco, is her constant pint-sized companion, and often observes matches from her perch on Maria’s lap. Isabelle believes Coco came from Romania, where the Andreescus have a family member who rescues dogs, she said. She fondly remembers the first time her friend brought the pup to a tournament in Quebec, “showing her off like a proud mom.”

She could more than double her winnings in one day

Andreescu has earned $2.42 million in prize money so far, almost all of it this year, and stands to gain another $3.85 million — for a total of $6.27 million — if she bests Williams on Saturday.

She’s hyper-focused


Bianca Andreescu (CAN) hits a ball to Serena Williams (not pictured) during the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at Aviva Centre.

John E. Sokolowski-USA Today

Andreescu attended Bill Crothers Secondary School in Markham, Ont., which caters to elite athletes, this past year. As of April, she still had three courses to complete before graduating. She has said she plans to continue her education, to keep her mind engaged and prepare for her career after sport — but she doesn’t talk much about her post-tennis plans, Isabelle said. “She’s been focused on tennis since day one … She was going to be a professional tennis player. That was it,” she said. “If she wasn’t playing tennis, I guarantee she’d be doing sports, because she’s just such a complete athlete.”

She works for her zen


Bianca Andreescu of Canada reacts after winning against Elise Mertens of Belgium during their Women’s Singles Quarterfinals match at the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 4, 2019.

Johannes Eisele / AFP

Andreescu told the National Post’s Scott Stinson that she started incorporating meditation and visualization exercises into her training at the age of 12 or 13, at her mom’s suggestion.

“I think if you can control your mind, then you can control a lot of things,” Andreescu said. “When I’m on the court in front of these big stages, I’m really good at just blocking everything and staying in the zone.”

Yves Boulais said Andreescu is “abnormally calm for the stress that our sport brings,” and has drawn inspiration from the works of the life coach and sports-psychology guru Tony Robbins.

He added much of her success stems from her “level head” and the practice of relaxing and centring herself she cultivated from a young age.

“It’s really rare. Bianca seems to have a peace about her that kind of makes her take (her game) stride by stride, not rushing. That’s what really makes her different.”

She plays through pain

Andreescu sometimes plays with a wrap around her leg, but as is typical for pros, has been tight-lipped about the nature of her injury. She played the Rogers Cup in August on a quadricep that was acting up, but that’s been the least of her physical woes this year. She withdrew in the fourth round of the Miami Open in March with a shoulder injury. Her return in May, at the French Open, lasted only one match before the shoulder pain resumed. She was out of action again, missing Wimbledon in the process, until the Rogers Cup in August. Last year her season was marred by back trouble. The various ailments have led her to grow her support team, which now includes a physical trainer, hitting partner, physiotherapist/osteopath, sports psychologist and doctor.

The injury rates among young tennis players are incredibly high, and Andreescu has had her fair share. But that tends to pass as they reach a higher level of strength and fitness around 23 or 24, Yves Boulais said. This means Canadians might well have years of exciting tennis-watching ahead of us as she reaches her prime.

Some have wondered about the plastic spiral hair tie Andreescu has been wearing around her bicep during games since January, but there’s nothing wrong with her arm: It’s a good-luck charm.

Tennis is her thing — not her family’s

Andreescu’s parents put her in a number of sports and activities when she was young, and she showed aptitude for tennis. They themselves are “not tennis people,” but do have a positive, calming influence on their daughter’s game, Yves Boulais said. “They’re not over-emotional, like lots of parents are, about the sport.”

With files from the Canadian Press and Scott Stinson

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close