Bianca Andreescu: Inspiring A Nation

Bianca Andreescu’s victory last month over three-time Grand Slam Champion Angelique Kerber at Indian Wells ranks as arguably the most significant victory in recent Canadian tennis history. Given the fact that her title victory came at such a marquee event, it will undoubtedly have a lasting and far-reaching impact in terms of growing the sport in Canada.

As many tennis observers are aware Andreescu has been on the sidelines recently because of a shoulder tear. It’s the same injury which forced her to retire in her fourth round match of the Miami Open against Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. It’s also kept her out of Canada’s recent Fed Cup tie against the Czech Republic. But the good news is that time off has served her well and she may be back in action as soon as early May for the upcoming Mutua Madrid Open – so it’s safe to say that more big victories are in store for the rising young Canadian.

On the topic of recent notable Canadian victories in high profile matches, there was Denis Shapovalov’s shocking win in Montreal over Rafael Nadal at the 2017 Rogers Cup. Going back a little bit, in July of 2016, Milos Raonic defeated Roger Federer to reach the finals of Wimbledon. And then, there was Eugenie Bouchard’s victory over Simona Halep which propelled her to the finals of Wimbledon in 2014.

Despite their impressive runs, Shapovalov lost in the semis of the 2017 Rogers Cup; Raonic would lose to Andy Murray in straight sets in the finals of Wimbledon in 2016; and Bouchard would get dominated by Petra Kvitova in the finals of Wimbledon in 2014.

Of all the current Canadian singles competitors, Raonic – who made his big breakthrough at the 2011 Australian Open – has been the most consistent and successful up to this point. The former world No. 3 has won eight ATP tournaments in his career but has yet to win a 1000 level event or a Grand Slam.

So when the 18-year-old Andreescu from Mississauga, Ontario battled pain and exhaustion to overcome Kerber 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, it was a victory that inspired a nation because it served as validation that a Canadian singles competitor can win the big one.

In winning the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Andreescu became the youngest woman to win the prestigious tournament since Serena Williams defeated Steffi Graf in 1999 to capture the title at the age of 17.

“It’s incredible to have my name beside so many incredible champions. It’s a dream come true,” said Andreescu, who also became the first WTA wildcard entrant to win the event.

“It’s been a crazy ride. Truly a Cinderella story. Naomi did this last year. And now to be able to have my name in front of so many amazing champions – it means the world to me.”

Given how far she’s come, it might be surprising to some that the 5’7″ Canadian teen started off her 2019 season ranked 152nd in the world. Having qualified for the ASB Classic in Auckland, she made an eye-opening run to the finals where she lost in three sets to Julia Goerges of Germany.

While she won the Oracle Challenger in late January and made a run to the semifinals at the Abierto Mexicano in February, not many would have picked her to win at Indian Wells, especially given the names entered included Naomi Oaska, Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova – just to name a few.

In her magical title run, Andreescu managed to beat six seeded players – including 2018 WTA year-end champ Elina Svitolina and former world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza.

The rising young star admits her victory against Kerber may not have been possible without the words of wisdom from her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, during an injury timeout in the third set.

“That moment was everything to me. He really helped me in that moment with such incredible words. The way he says things, it really gives me chills. So I’m glad I called him at that moment,” she pointed out.

“At that point, I was really, really tired, but at that point I was, like, mind over matter. That’s what helped me win today.”

Looking at the bigger picture, Andreescu is well aware of the far-reaching impact of her hard fought championship win at Indian Wells.

“I think this win will definitely give many people confidence, young athletes, maybe aspiring athletes also. And I’m just 18, so, yeah, if I can do it, they can also,” noted Andreescu, who received a Twitter shout out from Canada’s Prime Minister after her big win in California.

Having known Andreescu since their days as juniors, Shapovalov is eager to share his thoughts about the breakthrough success of his longtime friend.

“It’s unbelievable to see her doing so well,” said the 2016 Junior Wimbledon champ at the recent Miami Open. “Honestly, it’s insane what she’s doing. I mean, not even I could believe it, and I know how good and talented she is. So it’s great to see it from her.”

While Raonic’s success since his breakthrough success at the 2011 Aussie Open has created the belief that a Canadian singles tennis player can compete and have success at the highest level, Andreescu’s victory at Indian Wells now takes it one step further. In essence, her title victory at Indian Wells becomes a shining example that a Canadian singles tennis player can indeed win on the biggest stage also.

Given that recent Miami Open semifinalist Felix Auger-Aliassime and Andreescu are still only 18 years of age and Shapovalov just recently turned 20, it appears the three young Canadians will take turns in pushing the bar even higher for each other – and those coming up the ranks – in the years to come.

Perhaps Auger-Aliassime put it best at the Miami Open when speaking about the significance of Andreescu’s recent title for tennis in Canada.

“Having examples like this in the country is crucial. I remember for me it was,” said Auger-Aliassime, who looked up to the breakthrough success of Raonic as inspiration.

“To be able now to give back and inspire younger kids is a privilege. Hopefully we can all – in our separate ways – keep playing well and motivate us and see how far we can go.”

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