Bianca Andreescu was scuffling a few weeks ago in Montreal but a window -- three fat, juicy break points -- suddenly appeared. Camila Giorgi was serving at 4-2 and the homegrown Canadian seemed on the verge of bullying her way back into the first-round match.
Andreescu had a look at three second serves, but failed to convert. After Giorgi won her fifth straight point, Andreescu angrily slammed her racket to the court. After losing in straight sets, she spun 360 degrees, waving to the crowd with a forced smile that looked more like a grimace.
“She acts like she’s the boss on court,” the 23-year-old Andreescu reflected later, “and she was the boss on court tonight. Not me, sadly.”
The loss left Andreescu 15-16 for the season and injured. Again. Her sacroiliac joint, which links the pelvis and spine, causes chronic pain and visibly compromised her game in Montreal. In a social media post to announce she was pulling out of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andreescu revealed she was suffering from a “small stress fracture.”
Then there was the most heart-breaking turn of all. The injury would force her out of the US Open as well, the site of her greatest career achievement.
It was all a stark contrast to her bouyant and historic sprint through the 2019 season as a teenager. Andreescu -- the pride of Mississauga, Ontario -- raced into the consciousness of global tennis fans. She came into that year ranked No.152 among Hologic WTA Tour players and had already bagged two ITF singles titles. Impressive for an 18-year-old, but in a span nine months she scored stunning victories in Indian Wells, Toronto and, ultimately, the US Open.
The first hint that something special might be in play for Andreescu four years ago was a run to the final in Auckland where, including qualifying, she won seven straight matches, featuring triumphs over Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki. She left Australia with her Top 100 debut.
Then things got real.
Entered as a wildcard in Indian Wells, Andreescu defeated two Top 20 players (Wang Qiang and Garbine Muguruza) and then two from the Top 10, Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber, to take the prestigious WTA 1000 event. Her 6-4 3-6 6-4 comeback win over the three-time Slam champion in the final was one of the year's best matches.
And then Andreescu did it again in Toronto, less than 20 miles from her hometown.
And it wasn’t just the uplifting story of the prodigal daughter’s triumphant return on home soil. Rather, it was the degree of difficulty involved. After winning in Indian Wells, Andreescu played in only two events, Miami and Roland Garros. Plagued by injuries, she did not show well.
Yet after two months on the sideline, she ripped through the Toronto field, beating Eugenie Bouchard, Daria Kasatkina, No.5 Kiki Bertens, No.3 Karolina Pliskova and, in the semifinals, Sofia Kenin. Andreescu won three of four games in the final before Serena Williams retired with a back injury to become the first Canadian to take that title in 50 years; Faye Urban was your 1969 champion.
“I’m speechless right now,” Andreescu said afterward. “This has been a dream come true. This week has not been easy. I’ve had many, many tough matches, and especially what I’ve been through the last two months [has] not been easy, but I kept telling myself never give up.”
By the time she reached New York, she was ranked No.15 and expected to win her early matches. She needed three sets to defeat Elise Mertens in the quarterfinals and took out Belinda Bencic to reach the final -- against the same player who had retired during the Toronto final, Serena Williams. This time, it was a complete match. Andreescu notched her 13th consecutive victory to win 6-3, 7-5 and become Canada's first and only Grand Slam singles champion.
After her US Open triumph, Mississauga staged a #SheTheNorth rally. Previously, the city was best known for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. And then Toronto mayor John Tory declared Sept. 16 Bianca Andreescu Day. Andreescu, he tweeted, “has won the hearts of millions of Torontonians,” thanking her for “being an inspiration to young athletes across the city.”
She was destined to climb to No.4 in the rankings and play in the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China. It was so Andreescu that her brilliant season ended with a torn meniscus, leading to another prolonged pause.
Andreescu has always played an explosive, sometimes violent game, full of imagination and electricity. It has repeatedly proved too much for her body. Her early years featured a torn adductor muscle, a sprained ankle, a stress fracture in her foot and a lingering back condition. A knee injury knocked her out for the entire 2020 season but she only played 30 matches in 2021 and 33 in 2022.
“Having the success so quickly, it was kind of like a punch to the stomach because no one was expecting it,” she said at the Miami Open in 2021. “It’s a completely different ballgame, going from the ITF to the WTA. Out here, we put our bodies through a lot. Hopefully, now, with experience I’ll have fewer injuries.”
Those three, stunning titles in 2019-- bravura performances all -- remain the star-making highlights of Andreescu's WTA Tour resume today. She remains the only teenager to win a Grand Slam and WTA 1000 -- let alone two -- in a single season.
But it speaks to her heart and grit that the charismatic Canadian remains a highly influential fan-favorite. From the beginning she has used her platform to speak on the importance of mental health. Her efforts to inspire the next generation led her to author a children's book. Earnest and transparent, she has been quick to champion her idols and competitors.
Still just 23, Andreescu is still just at the beginning of her exciting career, but she has already left an indelible mark on the sport and Canadian tennis.