Spotlight: Bianca Andreescu

Published by Alex Sharp

Bianca Andreescu celebrates her win over Caroline Wozniacki in Auckland (Getty Images)
The Canadian teenager put in an awesome performance in Auckland to prevail over Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Canadian tennis has been blessed with a wealth of talent in recent seasons, and Bianca Andreescu is ensuring that fertile pipeline persists.

With the like of Milos Raonic, Eugenie Bouchard, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime coming before her and turning heads on Tour, the 18-year-old prodigy appears poised to rocket up the rankings to join her peers.

Currently ranked at world No.152, Andreescu sent a major signal of intent for 2019, dismissing defending Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-4 at the ASB Classic on Thursday night.

Tennis Canada uses the hashtag #NextGenCan which is pretty apt for the talented teenager.

On match point against Wozniacki last night, the qualifier worked the world No.3 from side to side in a lung-bursting 21-shot rally, before cracking a blistering inside out forehand winner from shoulder height.

There were rain stoppages, glitchy scoreboards, and medical timeouts for both players due to recurring back issues. It was a patient, mature and mightily impressive performance from Andreescu.

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‘#BiancaRising’ hailed Tennis Canada on Twitter last night, and it’s difficult to disagree.

The 18-year-old began moulding her skillset at TC’s regional training centres six years ago and since then Andreescu has been inspired by the plethora of Canadians now succeeding on the pro circuit.

“I remember we were all playing nationals a couple years back and now we’re playing pro tournaments. It’s honestly unbelievable,” shetold CBC’s website.

“We’re family. We’re a small group of people and all we do is support each other.”

Andreescu, who also lived in Romania as well as Canada during childhood, began picking up titles at ITF level in 2016 in her first year as a professional.

However, 2017 was the true breakout.

She qualified for the Wimbledon main draw, won two junior doubles Grand Slam trophies at the Australian Open and Roland Garros and added a pair of ITF titles to her name, too.

World No.1 Simona Halep met Andreescu during a promotional event for the Rogers Cup in Montreal back in 2016 and urged the youngster to capitalise upon her junior success to ignite a pro career.

“I told her to move up and not to play junior tennis anymore,” Halep told CBC. “I stayed too long in juniors, until 18. I think that was a little bit too much.

“I’m proud that I could win a Grand Slam in juniors — it was important in that moment and still is but to get in the Tour’s top faster, you have to start playing professional earlier.”

Halep’s advice was taken on board and it certainly paid off.

Andreescu truly announced herself to the tennis world in Washington in 2017. She took advantage of a Citi Open wildcard to defeat the 13th-ranked Kristina Mladenovic to become the first player born in the 21st century to take out a player ranked in the Top 20.

Injuries dominated the landscape in 2018, but two ITF titles for Andreescu at the end of the season built some momentum heading into Auckland.

Fans in New Zealand have caught a glimpse of Andreescu’s exciting and versatile game. During rallies the teenager can be very measured and has the ability to adapt her technique quickly. With a sharp change of speed, the Canadian is capable of springing into position to unlock some brutal power.

A prime example was the match point thunderbolt forehand facing Wozniacki. The potential is now coming to fruition.

“I’ve pictured myself beating top players like this, and it’s really just a dream come true. I know I have the level. My confidence skyrocketed like 20 times today. She was No.1 in the world and won a Grand Slam,” she told reporters after advancing to a second career WTA quarterfinal.

“I just fought until the end. I was in the zone and at one point, I didn’t even know the score. I was really pleased with my performance. I tried to stay in the present moment, but at 5-4 in the second set, I really knew I had it then.”

The Auckland journey has another fascinating facet tonight, with Andreescu to face another former world No.1 in Venus Williams.

“I’m just going to go out there like I did today with nothing to lose, just going for my shots and also being patient and aggressive, and have fun,” stated Andreescu, taking the occasion in her stride.

“That’s the most important thing.”

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