The signs are promising that Bianca Andreescu will play well for the rest of 2019, into 2020 and beyond.
A main reason she shouldn’t fall victim to any serious post early-success drop-off is that she has not been just a one-time champion. She showed that her big Indian Wells breakthrough was no fluke by winning the Rogers Cup. And then, at her very next event, she doubled-down by winning the US Open.
Her Rogers Cup triumph at home in Toronto may have been her most impressive feat so far because she had played just one match – a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Marie Bouzkova at Roland Garros in May – between the Miami Open in March and Rogers Cup in August. A recurring injury issue – a tear in her right subscapularis shoulder muscle – meant it was 134 days between her retiring in her fourth round match at the Miami Open against Anett Kontaveit and her first round 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Genie Bouchard at Rogers Cup.
By all logic, Andreescu should have been content with a round or two in Toronto – she claimed at the time that she had “zero expectations.” But she won six matches to capture the title. It’s doubly amazing that she won each of her first four rounds in three sets – highlighted by a thriller 6-1, 6-7(7), 6-4 victory over no. 5 ranked Kiki Bertens in the round-of-16 and a hard-fought 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 decision over no. 3 Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals.
After that match, Andreescu said, “when I step out on the court, I’m fearless. I show no mercy no matter who I play.”
But there remain cautionary tales of recent Grand Slam champions who have failed to follow up on their initial breakthroughs. Foremost among them is 22-year-old Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia who won the 2017 French Open, reached a career high ranking of no. 5 in March of 2018 but currently resides at no. 73.
Even current No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who was widely lauded for her all-round game following her victory at Roland Garros in June, has been a bit of a disappointment – losing in the round-of-16 at both Wimbledon ( to no. 55 Alison Riske) and the US Open (to no. 18 Wang Qiang).
Others players such as no. 12 Sloane Stephens and no. 28 Garbine Muguruza, both Grand Slam champions, have fallen back and seem to have lost the plot in terms of sustaining the games that got them their Grand Slam titles.
Right before this year’s US Open, Andreescu’s fellow-Canadian Denis Shapovalov, a big fan, expressed his admiration for her and her game. “I think Bianca’s variety is unbelievable,” Shapovalov said. “For every single girl, she’s got a different match-up. That’s why she’s so tough to beat. It’s not like she plays one way every match. She switches it up – she knows how to slice, she knows how to hit a heavy ball, she knows how to come in. She’s not scared of anything. And I think her fighting spirit is unbelievable. She’s never really down and out of it. You’ve seen how many times she’s come back from 5-1 down, from match points down. She just keeps fighting, she’s determined to win the match. That’s honestly something I want to learn from her. And I really look up to her for that. She’s really mature and, like I said, she’s got everything in her game and she’s not afraid to go for it.
“It’s really amazing to see her in this kind of form at this stage in her career.”
That form will be challenged again Wednesday when she plays no. 23-ranked Elise Mertens of Belgium in the second round of the WTA Premier Mandatory event in Beijing. Andreescu was a little shaky in the second set of her 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 victory over no. 60 ranked Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus on Monday while Mertens was solid in dispatching no. 17 Petra Martic of Croatia by a score of 6-2, 6-3.
Mertens, 23, should be motivated to play Andreescu – not before 2:30 p.m. (2:30 a.m. ET in Canada) – after losing a close 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 quarter-final to the 19-year-old from Mississauga at the US Open.
Looming in the quarter-finals in Beijing – if form holds – would be a blockbuster match-up between Andreescu and Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka. It would be the first meeting between the past two US Open champions.
Against Mertens on Wednesday, Andreescu will be attempting to win her 16th match in a row – dating back to that first-round victory over Bouzkova at Roland Garros. It would come in a week when it was announced she has qualified for the eight-woman WTA Finals in Shenzhen at the end of this month.
During the Rogers Cup, she said, “my hype up jam for this tournament would be ‘Ric Flair Drip’ by, I think, the Migos.”
A line in that Migos song is “I put my mind of it, then I put my grind on it.”
Lately, Andreescu has certainly been living up to that lyric.
Bianca Andreescu was featured in a 15-minute appearance on the popular Radio-Canada talk show Tout le monde en parle on September 22, alongside her coach Sylvain Bruneau. She made an admirable effort to speak a bit of French at the beginning but almost all the interview, except for when Bruneau spoke, was in English. Thanks to the show’s resident court jester, Dany Turcotte, there’s a brilliant punch-line at the very end.
Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov are into their second week of the ATP Tour’s fall Asian swing.
Next week, both Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov will be in Shanghai for the Masters 1000, an event where Roger Federer will rejoin the tour.
Auger-Aliassime defeated no. 44-ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-4 at the Beijing ATP 500 event on Tuesday to put an end to a four-match losing streak.
There was a small crowd on Court 2 (fifth largest at the China Open) for the first-round match but there will be a lot more spectators for his second round on Thursday against the second seed and no. 6 ranked Alexander Zverev.
So far in 2019, the no. 20 ranked Auger-Aliassime has an overall 32-20 record but is just 1-5 against Top 10 players. His lone win was over no. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas at Queen’s Club on grass. He has lost to no. 6 John Isner (Miami), no. 3 Zverev (Monte Carlo), no. 7 Kei Nishikori (Barcelona), no. 2 Rafael Nadal (Madrid) and no. 8 Karen Khachanov at Rogers Cup in Montreal.
Shapovalov had a good run last week in Chengdu – reaching the semi-finals before losing 6-3, 6-4 to eventual winner Pablo Carreno Busta. That was a decent result considering he was coming in from the Laver Cup in Geneva and had to deal with jetlag. Still, it has to be frustrating that he has now played in seven semi-finals – 2017 Rogers Cup (Montreal), 2018 Delray Beach, 2018 Madrid, 2018 Tokyo, 2019 Miami, 2019 Winston Salem and 2019 Chengdu – without reaching a final. And in each case, the player he lost to then proceeded to go on and win the title.
He’s into the second round at this week’s Tokyo ATP 500 after defeating old junior rival, no. 51 ranked Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday.
In the second round, Shapovalov (in caricature on his physio Stefano Depirro’s T-shirt above) will take on either the third seed and no. 15 ranked David Goffin or Carreno Busta. The Spaniard, ranked no. 39, defeated Shapovalov in the Chengdu semi-finals last week.
Not everyone was feeling great about being in Asia last week – particularly Tsitsipas. After enjoying what he described as a memorable experience playing on the same Laver Cup team as Federer and Nadal the previous weekend, the 21-year-old Greek flew to Chengdu for the ATP 250 event. The travel didn’t agree with him and he was sick, weak and having trouble breathing when he retired (see below) after two sets in his first-round match against Adrian Mannarino.
(Feature Photo: Mauricio Paiz)