Bianca Andreescu’s Extended Time Out From Tennis Served Well

ROME — Bianca Andreescu’s first Italian Open tournament came to an understandable halt in the quarterfinals against Iga Swiatek, a steamroller disguised as a tennis star.

But despite being unable to prevent top-ranked Swiatek from extending his streak to 26 games, Andreescu nevertheless took his place under the Roman sun with a wide smile on his face.

The defeat at this stage is not as harsh as the defeat at other stages of his career.

“Honestly, I was fired up to get back in there and play him again,” Andreescu said in an interview after Friday’s 7-6 (2), 6-0 defeat. “If I look at myself a year ago, there has been a lot of progress in the way I go back on tour and deal with my wins and losses. I’m just super motivated. Now I want to get back on the court and be more aggressive or work on something else.”

Andreescu, a 21-year-old Canadian from the suburbs of Toronto, great talents In tennis, which he explained very clearly in 2019 win the US Open She became the champion by defeating Serena Williams in straight sets in her first attempt in women’s singles.

The following month, he moved up to a career-high #4, will be #72 on Monday, but still has a seductive blend of refinement and power, and a rare ability to shift gears and turns. He also has strong legs reminiscent of his role model Kim Clijsters, which helps him explosively cover the court and build a great pace despite the taller players lacking leverage (5 feet-6 years old).

“There’s no shot he can’t hit,” said Daniela Hantuchová, an analyst and former starting five player, who commented on the sidelines as Andreescu and Swiatek went on tour for the first time on Friday.

“In the first set, Bianca wasn’t far from her top,” Hantuchová said. “For me, this was the best tennis set ever in the women’s tournament. In a way, it feels like a mirror in front of the mirror. They have different techniques, but mentally they have routines between dots and tactically they know exactly what they are trying to do there. They’re both great athletes and I kept saying that I hoped we’d see this pairing more often during the game. It would be a great competition to have. ”

But until now, Andreescu was only a part-time threat, unlike the 20-year-old Swiatek. A series of injuries was a career-long concern and, more recently, discomfort that prompted him to take his last extended break after the BNP Paribas Open in October 2021 in Indian Wells, California. The tournament held in Stuttgart last month.

She used her time off tour to do community service, volunteer at a children’s hospital, and build a shelter for victims of domestic violence. He went to a wellness center in Costa Rica and, like Swiatek, focused on developing more mental tools to complement the visualization and meditation work he started during his young career, which he cited as one of the keys to his intermittent, though precocious, success. .

“After Indian Wells, I accepted that I didn’t want to play anymore,” he said. “I don’t know if I was acting dramatic, but that’s exactly how I felt at the time. But now, I’m so glad I didn’t stop because that free time really made me appreciate the time I’m spending on the field now more because it was a decision I made. It wasn’t something external like an injury or illness. It was my decision and so I felt very empowered and it was a big step towards having more control over my life and not putting pressure on myself and just enjoying myself.

“During this break, I did everything I loved to do and said to myself I want to be of the same mindset if I come back. Frankly, I want to be competitive and upset if I lose, for example, but I also want to be competitive and upset at the same time that I have fun on the field and feel more motivated instead of being like crawling and crying in my bed after a loss. I want to feel it the night I did it last year.”

Andreescu as his tennis star friend Naomi Osaka and some other leading athletes of his generation are outspoken about the mental health issues they face. Having participated in three tournaments in his last comeback, Andreescu will head to the French Open, clearly in a better place and with momentum on red clay to match his varied play.

He showed up for Friday’s interview with no tape or ice packs on his body.

“Nothing,” he said. “I am especially grateful for my body because it was such a big problem. But if I continue to do well in practice, work hard and believe in myself, I see myself as a great clay court player.”

The challenge on the tour, a 10-month test of endurance and endurance, is to maintain health and enthusiasm.

His team, led by senior coach Sven Groeneveld, focuses on keeping him fresh and also bluffing, according to Andreescu.

“They can call me without getting defensive, and I think that really helps,” he said.

Groeneveld, whose most high-profile student in recent years is the now retired Maria Sharapova, declined to comment on Andreescu because she is “still early” in their relationship. But he has a systematic approach to his work, sitting on the sidelines during matches and jotting down the score, along with other details, including key patterns of play and delays in a player’s concentration.

“He could have written 10 books with all the grades he got. It’s funny,” said Andreescu.

Andreescu, as Canada’s first and only Grand Slam singles champion, already has a book about her published in 2019 called “Bianca Andreescu: She the North” and wrote a picture book called “Bibi’s Got” published last year. The Game: Tennis, Meditation, and A Story About a Dog Named Coco.”

But with the surprise retirement of the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty Earlier this season, the leaders of the women’s game can only hope that Andreescu’s tennis story has just begun.

Swiatek has a brilliant game, as Hantuchová and everyone else who watched the opening set on Friday clearly knows before he shifts into a gear that Andreescu isn’t ready to match, or at least isn’t yet.

“He clearly gained some confidence from the first set,” Andreescu said. “I was trying to be more aggressive, but at least in the second set I was missing by an inch. But he had a 25-game winning streak, now there’s a reason why it’s 26 games.”

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