There’s something you ought to know about teenaged star Bianca Andreescu, who recently put together what could be the greatest performance of any Canadian tennis player ever: Do not, under any circumstance, make her tired on the court. She will finish you.
On Tuesday, during a late-morning conference call with a gaggle of media who wanted to know what it was like to win a WTA title at 18 and make history doing so, the teenager from Mississauga, Ont., was asked what led to her comeback in the third set of the final at Indian Wells, when she was down a break against Angelique Kerber.
“It was definitely the tiredness,” Andreescu said. “I was going for my shots more.”
In other words, Kerber, the World No. 8 and winner of three Grand Slam titles, was making Andreescu tired, so the Canadian hammered a whole bunch of winners and came back and won the tournament. And then Andreescu left the tennis courts at Indian Wells on Sunday with a first-ever WTA title under her belt, a $1.3 million paycheque to her name and with friends and family and tennis idols and politicians blowing up her phone.
Then, she did exactly what you should do when you’re 18 and you’re in California and you’re exhausted and you need to celebrate: She went to In-N-Out Burger.
“That was the first stop,” Andreescu said, along with coach, Sylvain Bruneau, who she added had some inspirational words for her during that third set, while ice was being applied to seemingly her entire body.
And what a well-deserved burger that was.
In case you somehow missed the significance of her victory, let’s revisit: On Sunday, Andreescu became the first-ever wild card to win the BNP Paribas Open and the youngest woman to win the trophy in Indian Wells since Serena Williams did it 20 years earlier. And this event is one of the best there is: It’s known as the unofficial fifth Grand Slam, and it attracted all of the world’s top 10-ranked women. Andreescu, who was ranked 60th in the world up until Sunday, beat five seeded players en route to the title.
The final moments against Kerber were so Hollywood. Andreescu said: “I want this so bad” while she was being iced, sitting in her court-side chair. And when the title was hers, Andreescu fell to the court and lay on her back and screamed and threw her hands in the air.
What a run for the player friends and fans call Bibi, who began this year ranked 152nd and set a goal to crack the Top 100. Just five events into the season, she’s blown that straight out of the water and is currently ranked 24th in the world.
It’s been a quick ascent, so you can’t blame her for sounding a little tired over the phone during the call with media on Tuesday. Andreescu arrived in Miami at 2 a.m. that same day, and hadn’t even been to the tennis club yet.
“No, it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” she said, of her win. “I just got to Miami and I have a tournament happening in a day or two.”
It’s one day, Bibi. On Wednesday, she’s due to play World No. 70, Irina-Camelia Begu. Because re-seeding wasn’t applied to the tournament in Miami — going forward, Andreescu won’t need to play through qualifiers, or be a wild card, since she’ll be seeded — she has to start this tournament in the Round of 128. Her parents, who didn’t make the trip to California, are in Miami, and she got to see them last night. “It was incredible, because they’ve been with me since Day 1,” Andreescu said. “It was really nice to actually have a moment with them, finally.”
There haven’t been many moments since the big one on Sunday. And while there isn’t much down time before she plays again on Wednesday, Andreescu swears she’s feeling fine. Actually, “totally fine,” she promised. All that cramping and physical pain she endured just two days ago and in the lead-up to her championship run are behind her, she says, and she added she’s seeking help from the team with Tennis Canada to ensure she doesn’t hit that point of total exhaustion again.
“I think in that final match, there were just so many emotions and so much tension going through my body, because I’ve never been in a situation like that before,” she said. “But I proved to myself that even if I’m really tired, my mind just took over. And I think I proved that on Sunday.”
She did. And on Sunday, she also proved that all her earlier success has been no fluke. To open this season, in Aukland, Andreescu cracked her first-ever WTA final, beating both Williams and Caroline Wozniaki in the process. Losing in the final served her well on the even bigger stage in Indian Wells.
“I remember in the Aukland final, I was up 5-4 in the second set and I didn’t take my chances after winning the first set as well,” she said. “I remember telling my coach before the final against Kerber to make sure I take my chances, and that’s what I did. I’m really, really pleased with how I managed that final.”
So, too, were Billie Jean King, Justin Trudeau and Rod Laver, who all reached out to congratulate Andreescu. “That was definitely overwhelming,” she said.
Life has changed dramatically, though she’s just starting to see signs of that change. “I’m getting way more attention than usual. People are coming up to me that I didn’t expect would come up to me,” she said. “Definitely my schedule is changing, I’m playing more of the WTA events, which — that’s what I want. And I remember my goal was to get into the main draw of the French Open, right from the beginning of the year, and I already accomplished that, so now I have to sit down and re-evaluate my goals with my coach.”
What a lovely problem to have.
We’ve seen teenaged Canadians make big waves in tennis over the past handful of years. Maybe we’ve been too quick to anoint them ‘The Next Big Thing.’ But you have to get the feeling that with Andreescu, this has to be just the start, that her 29-3 record this season is no flash in the pan. And that’s because she’s not only skilled, but her mental strength is astounding.
“Past couple of weeks, I definitely learned that even if my body is running out, I can push through it with my mind,” she said. “And that’s what I did in the semifinal and my final, my final match… And I’ve learned that I’m capable to put up with these high-level players. My game really — what’s the word? It throws other players off, so if I keep improving my game, then a lot more good things could happen.”
Near the end of the conference call, a reporter with a Romanian radio station — Andreescu’s parents are both from Romania, and she lived there as a child — told her she’d been anointed the “Second Simona Halep,” in reference to the World No. 2, last year’s French Open champion, a former World No. 1.
The comparison was an honour, of course, Andreescu said. “But now that I’m doing better and better,” she added, “I want to just make a name for myself.”
Obviously, what she just accomplished hasn’t sunk in: Andreescu made a name for herself last week. Then, on Sunday, when she was as tired as she’s ever been, she added a massive exclamation mark to it.