The queen of Canadian tennis is on top of the mountain after her first Grand Slam title. Bianca Andreescu’s next challenge is staying there.
Riding high from her U.S. Open final victory over Serena Williams, Andreescu’s off-court whirlwind continued with high-profile TV appearances on “Good Morning America,” “Today,” “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” “The Tonight Show” and “The View.”
She also rose 10 positions to a career-high No. 5 in the WTA Tour’s world rankings on Monday, the latest achievement in a stunning ascent from relative unknown to top-flight contender. The 19-year-old Andreescu has handled her exponential climb with aplomb, displaying a level of maturity and confidence beyond her years.
“She’s shown a remarkable ability to adapt quickly to her new world order and I suspect the same thing will happen here,” said former national team coach Robert Bettauer.
Andreescu’s title at Indian Wells, Calif., last March got people’s attention. Raising the Rogers Cup trophy last month proved that win was no fluke. Beating an all-time great like Williams for a major championship has sent Andreescu into another stratosphere.
This was a sports moment that had a ‘where-were-you-when’ quality in this country, like Mike Weir winning the Masters or Sidney Crosby’s golden goal.
Andreescu was plastered on newspaper front pages and was a top story on news and sportscasts throughout Canada. Final ratings released Monday by TSN were a monster, with a record average audience of 3.4 million viewers (combined with the French-language broadcast on RDS) reported by Numeris to go with a peak of 5.3 million when Andreescu closed out the match.
There were some nervy moments in her 6-3, 7-5 win at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
She took the opening set in 42 minutes, but the packed house of 26,191 fans popped in the second set when Williams broke Andreescu’s serve to stay alive. The veteran American then sent the crowd into a frenzy by winning the next three games.
At 5-5, Andreescu showed the mettle that has won over tennis observers. She halted Williams’s momentum with a key hold and then broke her serve for the victory.
“That’s just guts,” said Bettauer. “That is a very, very extraordinary aspect to Bianca’s game and why she will go to No. 1 and why she will win more than a few Grand Slams. It’s much more than just the tennis game she plays.
“It’s who she is and the resolve she has a competitor. That is just superb championship quality.”
Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., earned a whopping US$3.85 million for the victory. She improved to 45-4 on the year and padded her 2019 prize money total to $6.06 million.
Quite a jump for a player who was ranked No. 152 at the end of 2018 and often earning a few thousand dollars at each tournament.
“Some players have all the tools and don’t know how to use them. She has all the tools and knows how to use them,” said former ATP Tour player Jesse Levine, now a coach based in Boca Raton, Fla. “She can play offence, she can play defence, she can hit spin … she can make you play the shots that are awkward and you’re not used to seeing.”
Fellow Canadians Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard have reached Grand Slam finals (both at Wimbledon) in recent years but couldn’t get over the hump. Both reached the top five but weren’t there for the long-term.
Andreescu seems primed to not only remain among the upper echelon, but to ascend even further.
The No. 1 spot has been a revolving door of late with Ashleigh Barty of Australia the latest to hold the position. Andreescu is the lone teenager in a top five that includes Japan’s Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, all players in their early-to-mid-20s.
“Bianca is now one of them,” said Bettauer, a Sportsnet analyst and CEO of the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. “She may have the best all-around combination of skills, athleticism and mental fortitude to be the one to rise above the pack and be the lead.”
Unlike a year ago, Andreescu doesn’t have to overload her schedule anymore. With injuries a concern in recent seasons, she can build up ahead of top events like Grand Slams and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Her decision to skip the Cincinnati tournament after winning in Toronto looks brilliant in hindsight. The next big circle on the calendar is the Oct. 27-Nov. 3 WTA Tour Finals in Shenzhen, China.
“I think the last quarter is all about keeping her healthy and getting her ready to peak for the year-end championship,” said Tennis Canada president and CEO Michael Downey.
Proper rest and recovery will be paramount for Andreescu, who paid her dues on the lower-level circuit before her breakthrough and was grinding through qualifying draws at this time last year.
It’s hard to overstate the impact her remarkable nine-month surge will have on Canadian tennis and the domestic sport scene.
“There are so many young Canadian tennis players and athletes from all kinds of sports who watched what happened this weekend and have been following Bianca,” Bettauer said.
“She is their star, their role model, their hero. They’ll want to now follow in her footsteps.”
Follow ↕GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.