It might seem strange to include Bianca Andreescu in our 2021 WTA Tour Players to Watch series. After all, she took the tennis world by storm in 2019 culminating her first grand Slam at the US Open. However, she hasn’t been seen since pulling out of the WTA tour finals that year with a knee injury. There is nothing that can derail a potentially great career more effectively than injury struggles. Players like Juan Martin Del Potro, Martina Hingis and Marat Safin are examples of how detrimental injury troubles can be.
Andreescu is set to return to the tour in Melbourne next month. Her next appearance on the tour will be her first in over a year. Her imminent return brings with it two key questions that she can go some way to answering over the next 12 months. Can she stay injury free and compete regularly on the tour? And if she can, just how good can she be given that no-one could touch her best level in 2019?
2019 – Injuries put the brakes on a runaway train
To understand the potential Andreescu has, it is best to look at just how dominant she was in 2019. She won her first slam at the US Open by beating all-time great Serena Williams pretty comfortably. Prior to that she won titles at Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup. She finished the year with a 48-7 win/loss record.
After starting the year ranked 158th in the world, she would end it inside the top five. She did all of that despite missing pretty much the entire clay court season with a shoulder injury sustained in the Miami Open. She completed eight tournaments in the year. Of the eight, she won four, made a final in one and a semifinal in another.
It truly was a spectacular year of tennis. However, it could have been far better if she hadn’t suffered injury troubles. The shoulder injury she sustained in Miami kept her out of action until August. The only exception was an attempted comeback at the French open which ended after one match.
She was virtually unplayable at her best, and the favourite in nearly every match she played. In fact, Andreescu looked like the heir-apparent to Williams. She looked like a player destined to dominate the tour for years on end. That remains a possibility for the Canadian, but Andreescu must find a way to injury free for that to happen.
Twisted knee in Shenzhen forces year of absence
The truth is no-one knows what to expect from Andreescu in 2021. She didn’t play a single match last year. The good news is that the last time she was away from the tour for a year was in 2018. We all know what happened after that. The bad news is that if she can’t shake her growing reputation for injuries, the last two years may turn out to be an accurate picture of the kind of career she will have. Brilliance in fits and bursts, but never playing consistently enough to be an all-time great.
From the outside looking in it appears that she is making smart choices in an attempt to insure that doesn’t happen. She refused to rush her rehabilitation in order to defend her US Open title. When it became clear she could play at Roland Garros but wouldn’t have the preparation required she gave that tournament a miss too. She appears determined to make sure she is 100% ready before stepping back on to the court. She is only 21 this year and has time to make sure she is fully ready before making her return.
The occasional glimpses she has given of her training on social media suggest she is fighting fit ahead of her return to the tour. If that’s the case, 2021 will surely be a spectacular year for the women’s game. To give you an idea of what we can expect if the Canadian phenome really is back, let’s take a look at her record against top 10 players in 2019.
WTA Elite can’t live with Andreescu at her best
Andreescu went 8-2 against players ranked in the top 10 in 2019. She is 17-5 against current or former top 10 players in matches she finished, with two of those losses coming in 2017. Her win percentage against current or former top 10 players since the start of 2019 is 85%. Her win percentage against players ranked in the top 10 at time of play is 80%. In short, the best of the best can’t handle Andreescu at…well…her best.
Few on the tour can live with the young Canadian when she is fit, fired up and in form. How many titles and Grand Slams she wins over here career looks to be dependant more upon her ability to stay injury free than anything else. While we can’t predict injuries, we can predict what will happen if she stays healthy. To borrow a quote from Lebron James, if you’re asking us how many we think she’ll win our answer is “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven.” If she’s in form she could have her second slam wrapped up by March.
Andreescu is the real deal and has all the makings of a tennis great. 2021 could well be the year that journey to greatness kicks off in earnest. We, like tennis fans across the world, can’t wait to see her back in action. She is must watch tennis this year and deserving of her place on the 2021 WTA Players to Watch list.
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