Q&A: Bianca Andreescu, Toronto’s newest tennis phenom
She’s not quite a household name yet, but, in just the first few weeks of 2019, Bianca Andreescu has toppled some significant tennis greats. It started in January when the Mississauga-born 18-year-old whooped Venus Williams at the Auckland Open. By the end of the month she had won her first WTA title, unseated Eugenie Bouchard for Canada’s top slot and become the hottest thing in tennis since Serena’s catsuit. Next up: the Mexican Open, in Acapulco, which gets underway today. Here, Andreescu talks about her new on-court mojo, the perks of instant stardom and why confidence isn’t a problem for her.
A year ago you were a promising unknown. Today you’re number 68 in the world and the top ranked woman’s tennis player in Canada. What does that feel like?
It’s hard to explain. I’m definitely getting a lot more attention, but it also sort of feels normal. I really think I deserve this.
A new normal, maybe?
Yeah, that’s it. I definitely didn’t expect this to come so far so quickly.
To what do you attribute the meteoric rise?
I think I had a very good pre-season. I worked a lot on my serve and my return, which are obviously important—and also on being more patient. I used to rush points, whereas now I’m staying longer in the rallies and I’m able to stay a lot more focused through long matches.
Sounds like you’ve summoned your mental mojo.
I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but I do a lot of yoga and meditation, which helps me stay in the moment when I need to. I’ve always been a pretty spiritual person, but now I can get into the zone.
You’ve said that you might have “too many” tools in your toolkit. What does that mean?
I can basically hit every shot in the game—top spin, slice, up at the net. It’s a curse and a blessing. I will sometimes use the wrong shot at the wrong time. That’s something I’m trying to improve: being able to read what’s coming at me so that I know how to respond.
Would it be fair to say that confidence isn’t a problem for you?
I don’t want to come off as cocky or anything, but I really do believe I can do great things.
What do you consider your greatest moment so far?
Winning against Venus Williams [at the ASB Classic] was definitely a highlight. I kept telling my trainer to pinch me, because I really couldn’t believe it. I grew up admiring the Williams sisters. Who doesn’t?
You have said you want to be a catalyst for change in women’s tennis. Is there anything in particular you hope to address?
Right now I’m excited just being able to be an inspiration for young girls to pick up a tennis racket. I’ve gotten a few messages from young women saying they’re playing because of me. That’s incredible. I think the better you are, the more of an impact you can have.
What about pay inequality, equal court representation, wardrobe restrictions?
I think all of those things are important issues.
Serena Williams has taken heat for her on-court clothing choices.
I know. And I definitely didn’t agree with her not being able to wear that catsuit at the French open. I really don’t see the problem. She definitely made a great comeback at the Australian open with the green outfit. That was awesome.
You’re heading into the Mexican Open at number 68 in the world. You’ve said you want to crack the top 50. How long before you make that happen?
Hopefully by the end of the year.
Do you have any pre-game rituals?
I always grip my rackets before my match, I always wash my hands before I step on the court and I always listen to hip hop. Right now it’s Kodak Black.
What’s the secret to your stamina? Other than being 18.
The preseason really helps with that. And then with back-to-back tournaments the number-one thing is recovery. Taking days off can be hard in tennis, but if you plan it out right, it’s possible. I recently had a week off.
What did you get up to?
I visited a lot of friends and spent time with family back home. I actually went to a Raptors game.
I saw that on your Instagram. Courtside seats. Not bad.
Yeah! The Raptors are my favourite team right now, so that was totally crazy. I brought my trainer, who also really loves basketball, and we had a great time.
Did you get to meet any of the players?
No, but I did catch a ball.
What? That’s awesome.
Well, I didn’t quite catch it. I touched it. It was close.