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Bianca Andreescu’s Prolonged Break from Tennis Has Served Her Well


ROME — Bianca Andreescu’s first Italian Open had just come to an comprehensible halt within the quarterfinals against Iga Swiatek, a steamroller disguised as a tennis star.

But even after failing to forestall the top-ranked Swiatek from extending her winning streak to 26 matches, Andreescu still took a seat within the Roman sunshine with a broad smile on her face.

Defeat at this stage doesn’t have the identical hard edge that defeat has had in other phases of her profession.

“Truthfully, I’m just fired as much as get back on the market and play her again,” Andreescu said in an interview after her loss, 7-6 (2), 6-0, on Friday. “If I take a look at myself a yr ago, there’s just been a lot progress in the best way I’m handling being back on tour and my wins and my losses. I’m just super motivated. I need to return on court immediately and work on being more aggressive or whatnot.”

Andreescu, a 21-year-old Canadian from the Toronto suburbs, stays considered one of the good talents in tennis, which she made abundantly clear in 2019 by winning the U.S. Open women’s singles title in her first attempt, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets.

Ranked a career-high No. 4 within the month that followed, she shall be No. 72 on Monday but still has that beguiling mix of finesse and punch and a rare ability to shift gears and spins. She also has powerful legs harking back to her role model Kim Clijsters that help her cover the court explosively and generate big-time pace despite lacking the leverage of taller players (she is 5-foot-6).

“There’s no shot she cannot hit,” said Daniela Hantuchová, an analyst and former top five player who was commentating courtside on Friday as Andreescu and Swiatek played on tour for the primary time.

“In that first set, Bianca was not removed from her top level in any respect,” Hantuchová said. “For me, that was the perfect set of tennis in the ladies’s tournament up to now. In a way, it almost seems like a mirror against a mirror. They’ve different technique, but they’ve their routines between the points mentally, and tactically they know exactly what they are attempting to do on the market. Each are great athletes, and I kept saying throughout the match that I hope we see this matchup more often. It might be an exquisite rivalry to have.”

But until now, Andreescu, unlike the 20-year-old Swiatek, has been only a part-time threat. There have been a series of injuries, a career-long concern, and more recently the malaise that moved her to take her most-recent prolonged break after the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in October 2021, before returning for a tournament in Stuttgart last month.

She used her break day tour to do community service, volunteering in a children’s hospital and a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She went to a wellness retreat in Costa Rica and focused on developing more mental tools to enhance the visualization and meditation work that she, like Swiatek, began during her junior profession and has cited as considered one of the keys to her precocious, if intermittent, success.

“After Indian Wells, I legit, like, didn’t wish to play anymore,” she said. “I don’t know if I used to be being dramatic, but that’s just how I used to be feeling within the moment. But now, I’m just super completely satisfied that I didn’t stop, because having that break day really made me appreciate my time on court more now, because that was a choice that got here from me. It wasn’t anything external like injuries or an illness or whatever. It was my call, and so I felt very empowered, and that was a giant step in me taking more control over my life and just not putting pressure on myself and just having fun with myself.

“During that break, I did mainly all the things I really like to do, and I told myself if I do come back, I need to be in that very same mind-set. Obviously, I need to be competitive and upset if I lose as an illustration, but I need to also feel that I enjoy myself on court and that I’m more motivated after a loss as an alternative of similar to crawling in my bed and similar to crying all night, which I used to be doing last yr.”

Andreescu, like her fellow tennis star Naomi Osaka and another outstanding athletes of their generation, has been open concerning the mental-health challenges she faces. Three tournaments into her latest comeback, Andreescu is clearly in a greater place and can head into the French Open with momentum on the red clay that suits her varied game.

She arrived at Friday’s interview with no tape on her body or ice packs in tow.

“Nothing,” she said. “I’m just super grateful for my body especially, because that’s been an enormous problem. But I do see myself being an incredible clay-court player if I just proceed doing well and dealing hard in practice and believing in myself.”

The challenge on tour — a 10-month test of endurance and resilience — is to keep up the health and enthusiasm.

Her team, headed by the veteran coach Sven Groeneveld, is targeted on keeping her fresh and, based on Andreescu, also on calling her bluffs.

“They will call me out without me becoming defensive, and I believe that actually helps,” she said.

Groeneveld, whose highest-profile pupil in recent times was the now-retired Maria Sharapova, declined to comment on Andreescu because they’re “still early” of their relationship. But he has a scientific approach to his work, sitting courtside during matches and noting the rating point by point together with the important thing patterns of play and other details, including a player’s lapses in concentration.

“He could write like 10 books with all of the notes he’s taking. It’s hilarious,” Andreescu said.

Andreescu, as Canada’s first and only Grand Slam singles champion, has already had a book written about her called “Bianca Andreescu: She the North,” published in 2019, and has written one herself, an image book published last yr titled “Bibi’s Got Game: A Story about Tennis, Meditation and 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 ladies’s game can only hope that Andreescu’s tennis story is just starting.

She has an incandescent game as was clear to Hantuchová and anyone else who watched the opening set on Friday before Swiatek kicked right into a gear that Andreescu was not able to match, not less than not yet.

“She clearly gained some confidence from that first set,” Andreescu said. “I used to be attempting to be more aggressive, but not less than within the second set I used to be missing by inches. But she’s on a 25-match streak, well make that 26 now, for a reason.”

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