Much like Bianca Andreescu's game, there was a little bit of everything in the Canadian phenom's triumphant return at the Australian Open on Monday. Playing her first match in 15 months, the 20-year-old defeated Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 to earn her first win at a Slam since lifting the trophy at the 2019 US Open.
There was the dominant opening set, which saw Andreescu unleash every shot in her varied arsenal to take the set in 30 minutes. As Buzarnescu raised her level and adjusted to Andreescu's pace and patterns in the second set, Andreescu began to trip herself up with poor decision-making and was taken to a third set in a match that seemed fully in her control.
"After the match I sat down with my team a little bit, and I'm like, 'Oh, guys, here we go again, those three-setters,' and they just started laughing because they obviously knew what they were getting themselves into," Andreescu told reporters after the match.
"But those matches are super good for me in my opinion because it really shows that I can scramble when I really need to, or if there's some pressure I can dig my way through it somehow. When my back is against the wall, not only today, but I've noticed throughout my last couple tournaments in 2019, I've been able to pull through with those."
That signature competitive grit that the world saw at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open, where Andreescu's sheer refusal to lose seemed to will her through her stunning run to her first WTA title and trigger one of the most surprising breakout seasons on the WTA Tour, was on full display in the final set.
Down triple-breakpoint to Buzarnescu at 3-3, 0-40, Andreescu found her rhythm. She landed her first serve and constructed three perfect points to hold. Andreescu immediately broke in the next game and closed it out cooly at love.
"I remember during my match against Angelique Kerber in the finals, I had that same kind of roller coaster of a match, and I was down 40-Love on my serve," Andreescu said. "It was in the third set. Around the same score, too.
"I was just thinking about that and how calm I was during that match, so I was telling myself, 'Oh, stay calm, stay cool, just put your first serve in' because I think my first serve today was very effective, which I did.
"It also happened against Serena, too. It wasn't the only time I did it, so I kind of have a little bit of a feel of how it is to be in that situation, but I was super, super relieved to get that game because I'm sure things would have been different afterwards."
Two distinct themes arose when Andreescu sat with reporters three days before the start of her tournament. First and most importantly, she was healthy and had been training full for a long period before landing in hard quarantine when she landed in Melbourne. Learning from past mistakes, when she played through injuries only to trigger long-term issues, Andreescu had played things cautiously. She withdrew from last week's Grampian's Trophy to continue her work on the practice court, not due to any concerns over her body.
The second theme? As much as she will try and fight it, Andreescu is as competitive as ever. Any professional athlete making a return after 15 months away would be forgiven if they met the moment with trepidation or insecurity. Yes, Andreescu paid lip service to those impulses, repeatedly telling reporters that she did not know what she could expect from herself in her first match back, but deep down, the 20-year-old could not deny her ambition. And when push came to shove in the third set against Buzarnescu, Andreescu found another gear.
"I do know that I am stronger in many different ways than I was before, so I do know I can be just as good if not better than I was in 2019 in every aspect," Andreescu told WTA Insider. "But I won't know for sure until I actually go out there because it's a different story practicing and doing things in competition.
"I have high hopes for myself. I'm healthy first of all, and I know if I'm healthy I can get out there and compete at my best.
"I am being a bit kinder to myself, yes, because of all that time off. But I also want to do very well and win. So I still have those goals for myself. But yes, I'm a little bit kinder. If I lose - and I don't want to think like that - but if I do, I won't be as hard on myself."
Maintaining an even keel was key to Andreescu's incredible 2019 season, which saw her start the season outside the Top 100 and win Indian Wells, Toronto, and the US Open while also dealing with injury during the clay and grass season. There were highs and lows, but Andreescu did well to keep it all in perspective, not surprising from a player who relies heavily on meditation, visualization and imagery. That outlook again paid dividends during her 14-day hard lockdown in Australia.
"I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, as cliché as that might sound," Andreescu told reporters. "I try to focus on the things I can control. I can't stress that enough. I always say it. But that really helps me stay less stressful than if I don't follow that rule.
"I try to kind of use these things and think of these things as an advantage towards me, my body, my mind. For instance, I trained for, like I said, five months before that, so maybe it was a good thing for my body to rest a little bit and my mind, too. I was able to do other things, like play my XBOX, just read a little bit more, focus on myself, just enjoy my time off."
In addition to sessions of Call of Duty with friends and strangers, Andreescu spent her quarantine rewatching her old matches from that magical 2019 season.
"It was inspiring," Andreescu told WTA Insider. "I realized I was super motivated, super hard-working during those matches. I did not let up. I fought until the last point. I played my best tennis.
"I really got into the mood, into the mindset. I felt the same things like I did in 2019, which I think really helps me just get in character.
"I don't normally like to do that. But I think it was good for me since I haven't played for so long. Hopefully that can help me bounce back on the court quicker."
On Wednesday, Andreesc will play crafty Hsieh Su-Wei, who played the best match of her season so far to defeat US Open quarterfinalist Tsvetana Pironkova 7-5, 6-2. Andreescu's first priority will be to see how her body pulls up after a tense and grinding three-set match.
"I feel surprisingly pretty well," Andreescu said. "I had an ice bath, I did those recovery boots, and then playing in a Grand Slam you have the day off tomorrow. I mean, I'm going to practice a little bit, but that definitely helps.
"I have played [Hsieh] before, so I kind of know what to expect. It's been over a year and a half now. Things have changed.
"But I feel pretty good considering my match today going up against her. I know it's not going to be easy, though. She's a pretty crafty player, so I think that's going to be a fun match."
Before the tournament, Andreescu was asked if she had a message for fans who have been champing at the bit to see her return to competition.
"I want them to know that I am ready to go," she said. "I've put everything in the past in the past and I'm ready to start a new chapter this year."