Saturday, June 25

Bianca Andreescu Returns to the US Open Looking to Begin a New Era of Stability | US Tennis Open


TTwo years ago, Bianca Andreescu seemed to have the world of tennis in the palm of her hand. Throughout the 2019 season, she emerged on the top chart of the women’s tour in a completely unique set of circumstances. Many times he would travel to a tournament and fight with injuries along the way, but despite each new setback, somehow his forward momentum never stopped.

In her first full year in the WTA at age 18, Andreescu won the Indian Wells WTA 1000 tournament as a wild card before suffering a five-month shoulder injury. Upon his return, Andreescu secured the Rogers Cup, his home event, in his first tournament without any prior training. In her second, she defeated Serena Williams in the US Open final to achieve her first grand slam.

Of all the memories she created during that amazing teaser season, two qualities come to mind. The first is the way he drives on the court and the sheer energy that springs from it every time he competes. Andreescu is chaotic on the court and is almost always the main character. She is loud and intense, disgusted by anything but perfection. He couldn’t care less how his opponents react to his presence. And them sure you react.

When his game is in full swing, it’s also not hard to see why Andreescu’s standards are so high. She is strong and solidly built, armed with a destructive forehand that can cut through all defenses in the world, excellent athleticism, and one of the best performances in the game. But what elevates his game is his innate sense of court. She weaves in drop shots, wicked angles, and abrupt changes in pace and trajectory from her vast arsenal of punches. Andreescu is as adept at neutralizing opponents with a million paper cuts as he is to hit them cleanly off the court.

That breakout season came to an abrupt end. After the 2019 US Open, Andreescu tore her knee meniscus in her first match at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen against Simona Halep, and withdrew from her next match that week. I would not compete again for 15 months.

Earlier this year, as Andreescu prepared for his return to competition, he spoke to The Observer from her hotel room in Australia and was full of hope and joy to be back on tour. This has been a year to learn how difficult this sport can be.

After being one of the players forced into a harsh quarantine in Melbourne, Andreescu lost outright in the second round of the Australian Open. When he surfaced again at the Miami Open, he made clear progress before it ended in a familiar result. After progressing to the final where she faced Ashleigh Barty, she pinched her ankle and eventually withdrew from the match.

Bianca Andreescu receives treatment for knee injury in Shenzhen in October 2019
Bianca Andreescu receives treatment for a knee injury in Shenzen in October 2019. She had to withdraw from the match and did not play again for 15 months. Photograph: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

The fighting just continued. On his way to Europe two months later, Andreescu tested positive for Covid-19 and was forced to withdraw from the Madrid and Rome Open. Once she finally came out of isolation, her inexperience caught up with her on natural surfaces.

Still figuring out how to play effectively on clay and grass, he lost in the early rounds of the French Open and Wimbledon. He quickly learned to put on a brave face in defeat: “I could cry a lot tonight,” Andreescu said after losing in Paris. “But tomorrow is a new day.”

Injury is still his great enemy. Every time you slip or move in a way that’s not entirely smooth, it’s hard not to flinch at the possibility that you could suffer another ruinous setback. Back in Canada this month to defend his title in Montreal, Andreescu hurt his toe while leading No. 22 Ons Jabeur by one set, and slowly faded away. The pain was still there when he suffered a loss in straight sets in the first round of the next tournament in Cincinnati.

And so, when he returns to the US Open for the first time since his win in 2019, Andreescu finds himself on precarious ground. He hasn’t beaten a top 50 player since March. His win-loss record for the year is just 13-9. His rating of seven is an illusion. Due to the pandemic ranking freeze, Andreescu’s US Open 2019 points will only drop from his ranking after this tournament. Actually, she ranks 35th in the WTA race rankings.

Still, this sport is not easy. Losses are inevitable and learning curves are part of what shapes great players. Although she is determined to register great results immediately, for Andreescu the last few months have underscored the need for her to think long term rather than allowing short term results to dominate her thoughts.

“I have to tell myself that I am not the same person then as I am now,” she said Friday. “Taking so much time off, I feel like it helped me in so many ways. But then by getting into that competitive mindset, it took me back a bit. I feel like that’s also one of the reasons why I haven’t gotten the results I wanted. But I’m really trying to focus on the process and the long term because I’m 21 too. “

Andreescu says he’s in a good place now. In the time since he left for Europe, he parted ways with his longtime coach, Sylvain Bruneau, due to his inability to travel with her full-time, and hired veteran Sven Groeneveld as Bruneau’s replacement. This will be their first slam tournament together. His recent defeats have taught him to live a more balanced life instead of being consumed by tennis. She says she is healthy.

Next week, Andreescu will compete again at the US Open after missing last year’s edition. She is the sixth seeded but, in truth, she is far from the favorites list and out of the immediate spotlight. Maybe she likes to be there.


www.theguardian.com

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