As the door to Sobeys Stadium’s main interview room flung open and the 2019 US Open champion took her seat in front of a packed house, the noise from the hoards of clicking cameras was constant, while the excitement and anticipation in the room was palpable.
This was Bianca Andreescu’s first official public appearance in Canada since she wrote her name into the country’s history books, just as her name was engraved on the US Open trophy following her straight-sets victory over Serena Williams on Saturday.
But this wasn’t technically Andreescu’s first public outing since she returned on a private jet Tuesday.
“I actually went to Yorkdale yesterday,” she said, as humble as you like, to the rafts of national and international reporters sitting in front of her, all hanging on her every word. “That was my first stop.”
There’s no doubting the 19-year-old’s life will never be the same again, not least because of her victory over Williams in Arthur Ashe Stadium, but also her title wins at Indian Wells and Rogers Cup presented by National Bank earlier this year as well as her leap to No. 5 in the WTA Tour’s latest rankings.
“I’ve been getting more recognized than usual,” Andreescu continued. “I came in today, Tennis Canada gave me a very warm welcome, which I really appreciate so thank you guys. So, yeah, I think it’s a little bit different.”
As she spoke, behind Bianca was a freshly-made Tennis Canada backdrop, proudly sporting the organization’s logo. But there was a new addition to the sprawling red banner that’s been popping up more regularly in the past week. In fact, it’s rare that any Canadian sports fan can scroll through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram without seeing ‘#SheTheNorth’ somewhere.
“It’s crazy,” Andreescu said. “I wasn’t expecting any of this, especially to have my own hashtag. It’s pretty awesome. The Raptors, I watched their historic win and I’ve been getting some messages from some of the players which is really, really cool. Yeah, but having my own hashtag… if someone would have said that a couple of years ago, I would not have believed them.”
— The Tonight Show (@FallonTonight) September 10, 2019
Since her powerful forehand return winner at 5:59 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, which ultimately won her the US Open crown, Andreescu has been on a whistle-stop tour of media commitments both in New York and Toronto. Appearances on the likes of Good Morning America, The View and Sportsnet’s Tim and Sid were all part of the whirlwind, as was The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – something Andreescu still struggles to believe.
“It was so fun,” she said, with a big grin on her face. “Jimmy is such a cool guy and I’m really glad I got that experience. I still can’t believe I was on that show, I didn’t think he was a real person before I actually met him because I’ve watched his show many, many times and being able to sit in that chair was really cool.”
But it’s not just Bianca that the media have been fixated on. Her mom, dad and, of course, her dog Coco have all received considerable media coverage.
“Yeah, they’ve been getting a lot of attention too, especially my mom,” she said. “I think she has her own Buzzfeed post – I think that deserves a round of applause! It was really funny, all of the tweets my mom has been getting and also my dog, Coco. I’m just super grateful at the end of the day to have them in my corner – and my dad, obviously. He’s part of everything that’s been going on. It’s just so nice to have amazing parents like them because they still treat me like I’m me, not like anything else.”
The fact Andreescu has grown up with such an incredible support network has ensured she’s kept her feet firmly on the ground. Being thrust into the spotlight after winning a Grand Slam is one thing, but being looked up to by millions around the world as a by-product is quite another. So, does Bianca relish her new-found, role-model status?
“Yes, I do,” she answers, unerringly. “One of my goals was to be an inspiration to many people and I think I’m starting to do that which means a lot to me. If I step onto the court and I show a good example, I think it can drive a lot of people to maybe even pick up a racquet. I know the sport is starting to get more attention because of what happened at the US Open.
“I’ve been getting some messages saying that they’ve never watched tennis before but now they will, which is pretty cool. I’ve got some where they said that they actually started playing tennis because of me.”
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) September 9, 2019
Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about – inspiring the next generation of players to pick up a racquet. And, as her press conference on Wednesday was coming to a close, Andreescu had a message for that next generation:
“If you really love playing this sport, then go for it! Dream big to get big – because that’s what I’ve been doing ever since I was little. No dream is too big so follow your dreams, know that there are going to be some sacrifices involved. There’s going to be hard work, you’re going to have to put in a lot of dedication and if you really believe in yourself and you don’t let anyone get in your way and try to block out distractions then I think you can do really big things. And obviously surround yourself with people that support you.”
Also, we’ll just leave this here…
Addicted to trophies and we love it.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) September 12, 2019
Interested in playing tennis? Head to TennisCanada.com/play.
(Feature photo: Peter Power / Tennis Canada)