One thing that has marked Bianca Andreescu’s stunning rise in 2019, perhaps more than anything, has been her remarkable composure.
The Canadian teen, less than a year ago, was barely clinging to a place in the world’s top 250.
Now she is a Grand Slam champion, guaranteed to crack the top five on Monday, and the sport’s newest superstar.
Andreescu this year has claimed prestigious hard court titles at Indian Wells, Toronto and now the US Open. Thanks to her 6-3 7-5 defeat of Serena Williams in Saturday’s final at Flushing Meadows, she is a stunning 8-0 in her career against top-10 opponents.
She’s done it all with an impressive swagger, self-confidence and assuredness, and ability to produce her best in the big moments — all traits belying her 19 years.
One of the keys to her success has been visualisation. And when asked about this psychological device and how it has helped her, it seemed the Canadian finally, properly, contemplated the enormity of her achievements.
“This wasn’t the only time I visualised playing in the finals actually against Serena Williams. It’s so crazy, man,” she said, before breaking down in tears and apologising.
“I’ve been dreaming of this moment for the longest time. Like I said after I won the Orange Bowl, a couple months after, I really believed that I could be at this stage. Since then, honestly I’ve been visualising it almost every single day.
“For it to become a reality is just so crazy. I guess these visualisations really, really work (laughter).”
The press conference moderator told journalists that they would “take a moment for a second”. But Andreescu by that point had snapped back into her more typical, confidently jovial mood.
“I’m good, continue,” she laughed.
It was a moment of emotional outpouring that has, so far in 2019, rarely been seen from Andreescu, who instead has been notable for her fiery on court presence and her charming personality off it.
That fiery, confidence demeanour — plus a crystal-clear game plan — helped her dominate the majority of her US Open final against Williams, except for a wobble at the end where Serena saved a match point and reeled off four straight games to level the second set at 5-5.
At the beginning of the match, it was the Grand Slam novice, and not the vastly more experienced 23-time major champion, who settled into the contest the quickest.
“The first game? I was really happy about that,” Andreescu smiled. “I think she double-faulted for me to win the game.
“The game plan right from the start was to make her work for every ball, to get as many returns in the court as possible.
“I think she was intimidated a little bit by it.”
The word “intimidated” is a word usually associated with Williams’ opponents when they face the American legend across the net.
Funnily enough, Andreescu admitted she had drawn inspiration from watching Williams compete and following her career.
Seeing Andreescu go toe-to-toe with Williams in intense baseline rallies and urge herself on vocally after winning points was akin to watching a teenaged Williams 20 years ago break through for her first Grand Slam title in New York.
“I think there are some similarities (between us). We like to keep the points short with our aggressive game style. We like to use our serve to our advantage. I think we fight really, really hard,” Andreescu said.
“I’m sure I’m not the only person that’s looked up to her. She’s an inspiration to many, many people, not only athletes. What she’s done off the court, too. She’s truly a champion.
“She’s very kind-hearted. She came up to me in the locker room, she said some really nice things, which I’ll cherish for a really, really long time.
“I’ve really strived to be like her. Who knows? Maybe I can be even better.”
— WTA (@WTA) September 8, 2019
By this point of the press conference, Andreescu was once again exhibiting the composure that has come to define her 2019 season.
That, plus her visualisation techniques, and the hard work she is putting in off the court — to which she regularly references — have put the young Canadian in a position to build on what has already been a stunning breakthrough this fortnight at Flushing Meadows.
“I think your biggest weapon is to be as prepared as you can,” she said.
“At this level everyone knows how to play tennis, I think. The thing that separates the best from the rest is just the mindset.”
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