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By Chris Oddo | Friday January 4, 2019


Success breeds success and there sure has been a lot of success when it comes to Canadian tennis in the last several years. First Eugenie Bouchard reached the Wimbledon final and claimed a Top 5 ranking, then Milos Raonic did the same. Now we’re seeing young Canadian players, inspired by what is possible, rising up the ranks.

Denis Shapovalov isn’t even 20 yet and already he has two Masters 1000 semifinals to his name as well as a win over Rafael Nadal. Felix Auger-Aliassime is still only 18 but he’s starting to gain valuable experience on the pro tour as his ranking continues to rise.

Throw Bianca Andreescu into the mix.

The 18-year-old Ontario native is making a big splash this week at the ASB Classic in New Zealand, and it is no fluke.

Andreescu was a No.3 junior in the world, won the Orange Bowl 16s and 18s, and reached two Girls’ Singles semifinals at majors. Clearly she’s been a player on the rise for quite some time, but there’s never a guarantee that top juniors, however highly touted, will ever break through and make hay against the fierce completion on the WTA Tour.

That is why this week is so important for Andreescu. Not because we needed to know she was talented—anyone with a computer could have quickly figured that out—but because we needed to see that she could actually step up to the plate and beat top pros.

With back-to-back wins over former World No.1s Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams at the ASB Classic we now know that Andreescu doesn’t just have the potential to win on tour—she can win on tour.

Imagine what that will do for her confidence, not to mention her rankings. Already up inside the Top 120 for the first time, Andreescu can crack the Top 100 with a title in Auckland.

How has Andreescu done it?

With a surprisingly versatile, nuanced and powerful game.

Small in stature, at 5’6-ish, Andreescu is tall in moxie on the court. She moves explosively, and is rarely out of position, which enables her to generate exceptional timing and therefore power. But it’s not just power that has enabled the Canadian to power past top players in New Zealand. It’s variety. It’s defense. It’s zest.

Andreescu hits a great backhand slice and can change the tempo of rallies with it to great effect. She doesn’t fall prey to the A-B rhyme pattern that makes so many players predictable, instead she mixes and matches strokes with improvisational acuity, dashing in to play the net or feather a dropper with delicate touch, before punching a volley or torqueing her whole being to laser a short ball into the open court.

All of this makes her an entertaining spectacle to behold. She's a physical and emotional presence on court, one that will no doubt inspire the next generation of Canadian players as they ripen their games and wait for their chances.

"I believe that anything is possible, and I think tonight I did the impossible,” a thrilled Andreescu said on court after surving a late rally from 2015 champion Venus Williams.

Andreescu admitted that Williams may have been off her game during their encounter, but that’s not the point here. The point is that the 18-year-old recognized that fact and exploited it like a savvy veteran. She reeled off 11 straight games at one point and completely dominated the great champion for much of the match.

"She's one of the best servers in the game,” she said. “Today she didn't serve as well as other matches I've seen her play. But I took control of that. It was honestly a gift, maybe like a late Christmas present."


According to CBC, Andreescu made the wise decision of moving her off-season training base to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, in order to train with tougher opponents.

Clearly she’s a quick learner. Andreescu owns a 9-7 lifetime record against the Top 100 and she is 2-0 lifetime against the Top 20.

It’s never smart to expect too much too soon from young players outside the Top 100, but in Bianca Andreescu we are witnessing a big step in the development of a player that could very well become a force in the game at some point.

With the confidence that comes from a great achievement, Andreescu will have the chance to keep the momentum going in Australia. She’s never won a match at a major, and only played a total of ten at the WTA level.

But early indications are that she has what it takes to be an impactful player, maybe even in 2019.

"It feels like a double dream," Andreescu said. "I'm really just speechless. I don't know if this is a dream, if [it is one] you can pinch me please. Honestly, I've worked really hard for this moment. I'm just really grateful."

 

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