TORONTO, Canada - One of the most striking clips shown in Bianca Andreescu's new interview with Canadian broadcaster CBC is the video the 18-year-old filmed of herself at Auckland airport in January after reaching her maiden WTA final in her first tournament of 2019, in which she laughs excitedly about the prospect of climbing to the dizzy heights of World No.107 as a result.
Just three months and five tournaments later, the Canadian teenager has soared to No.23 and has emerged from the American March hard court swing as the Indian Wells champion, following one of the most spectacular title runs by an underdog the tournament has ever seen. It's necessitated something of a reset in Andreescu's goals. "In my eyes I would like to maybe crack the Top 15 and do very well in the Grand Slams," she offered to interviewer Adrienne Arseneault, clarifying that she had not yet sat down with coach Sylvain Bruneau to discuss this.
Andreescu's goals reach beyond her ranking, though. Having made no secret this year of her desire to achieve greatness, the highest-ranked teenager on tour chose to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the word 'Equality' for the interview. "It's a gut feeling," she explained, paying tribute to historic trailblazers such as Billie Jean King. "I wanted to put this out there because a lot of women are fighting for equality in the sport and I want to be one of them. Now the WTA's becoming bigger and bigger with all these female athletes stepping up - we have a voice now, and I want to have one too."
The young phenomenon's penchant for the big stage showed at an early age. When hitting balls against a practise wall in her junior days, Andreescu used to imagine that she was playing the US Open final against Kim Clijsters - "now I'd probably change that to Serena, obviously, or Simona Halep - she's a really good player and I'd love to be like that, or maybe even better," she says now. But her taste for the spotlight was truly whetted in 2014, after she won Les Petits As - the premier U14 tournament in the world - in Tarbes, France, defeating Claire Liu 6-4, 7-5 in the final.
"I really got a sense of how the pros are treated," Andreescu recalls. "At that tournament you'll be signing autographs after matches, you'll be giving interviews, you'll be playing in front of thousands of people. So that gave me a taste of how the WTA Tour would be like. And it tasted pretty damn good, the taste of really good dessert."
It was after Les Petits As that the Andreescus decided, en famille, to commit to the 14-year-old Bianca's future in tennis - and now, she's quick to emphasize that her success has been a communal effort. "I'm not in this alone," she says. "They're the ones driving me to practice, to school. They're the ones behind the scenes. They also made a lot of sacrifices with work - they took time away from that - but I'm sure it's all worth it in the end when this success is coming towards us."
This year, Andreescu revealed that one of the ways her mother Maria has helped her was in introducing her to meditation at a young age - a key foundation for the mental strength she's demonstrated over and over again in 2019. Shown a clip of her frustration at falling behind a break in the deciding set of the Indian Wells final, Andreescu recalled that she "had really wanted to smash that racquet" - and was uncertain whether she could carry on. A pep talk from Bruneau, she said, reset her mindset and spurred her on to victory - but this fortitude has been years in the making, not a sudden switch.
"I've been working on that for so many years - it's not like it comes overnight," Andreescu explained. "I've worked with a psychologist before and my mom introduced me to meditation at a really young age, so all that is definitely helping with being able to last long matches. It also helps with not focusing on things you can't control. I think I'm doing that really well now, and it's really showing."
This comes in combination with a multifaceted game that none other than Martina Navratilova has compared to five-time Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis. Andreescu, asked to explain her strengths, reels off a wide-ranging repertoire that cover just about everything a player could hope to master: "I like to come to the net, I like to slice, I'm not going to hit the same ball over and over again. I'll throw in a dropshot here and there. I'm also pretty aggressive with my shots, I like to go for it, and I think I move pretty well on the court."
Next due on the WTA Tour at the Mutua Madrid Open in May, Andreescu may not be done resetting her goals this year just yet.