Bianca Andreescu of Canada hits a return shot against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic during the WTA Finals Tennis Tournament in Shenzhen, China's Guangdong province on October 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Andy Wong

Bianca Back: Tennis star Andreescu slated to make long-awaited return in Melbourne

Bianca Back: Tennis star Andreescu slated to make long-awaited return in Melbourne

After a long wait, Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu is finally set to make her return to competitive play.

The 2019 U.S. Open champion will return to the court at the upcoming Melbourne Summer Series.

A pair of WTA Tour 500 events — the Gippsland Trophy and Yarra Valley Classic — will run Jan. 31-Feb. 6 as part of the series, with players being divided into the two events.

It will mark Andreescu’s first competitive appearance in about 15 months.

The tournaments will serve as tune-ups for the Australian Open, the season’s first Grand Slam, which starts Feb. 8.

Andreescu hasn’t played since a left knee injury forced her to retire from a match at the WTA Finals in October 2019.

The WTA Tour released the entry list for the series last week and a spokesperson at the Octagon agency, which represents Andreescu, confirmed her participation Monday in an email. Andreescu’s coach, Sylvain Bruneau, said in a text message that they planned to leave for Australia on Thursday.

Andreescu enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2019 after starting the season ranked No. 152 in the world. She closed the year at No. 5 despite missing some time throughout the season due to injuries.

The 20-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., earned titles at Indian Wells, Calif., and Toronto that year before winning her first Grand Slam in New York.

In 2020, she was on Canada’s Fed Cup roster for a February tie in Switzerland but didn’t play due to her knee injury. When WTA Tour events resumed in the summer after a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Andreescu declined to participate.

She announced in September that she would take the rest of the season off to focus on health and training. Two months later, she confirmed her return for the 2021 Australian swing.

“The positive thing is that she is obviously extremely motivated,” Bruneau told The Canadian Press at the time. “She’s always motivated, so it’s not a change. But when you’re forced (off the court) and that’s your life, you want that back badly.”

The Australian Open will run through Feb. 21. All players must quarantine for 14 days in Melbourne after arriving Down Under.

A WTA 250 event will also be played in Melbourne during the second week of the Australian Open.

Andreescu has shown in the past that she can quickly get back to a high level of play after a break.

She played just one match in a four-month span leading up to the Rogers Cup in 2019. Andreescu was pushed from the start that year in Toronto, needing three sets in each of her first four victories.

“She’ll have to get into battle mode right from the start but that’s also her (modus operandi),” said tennis broadcaster and former national team coach Robert Bettauer. “I think she’ll be very clear-headed about what to expect. She’s not the only one who has taken an extended break.”

Top-ranked Ash Barty, for example, hasn’t played a WTA Tour match since February. The pandemic upended the calendar to varying degrees for everyone.

“That does help Bianca,” said Bettauer, the CEO of the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. “She’s coming back to a very unusual tour where many players are not far removed from her situation of just not having played many competitive matches.”

Barty has a comfortable lead on Simona Halep in the world rankings. Naomi Osaka is third with Sofia Kenin, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova all close behind.

The rest of the top 10 includes Andreescu, Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens and Aryna Sabalenka.

“It’s a very competitive field at the top, they’re all pretty even,” Bettauer said. “So I think Bianca is absolutely one of them that will have the opportunity to challenge for the top spot and win more majors. So that hasn’t changed. And it’s not like while she was gone, one player clearly established herself as the undisputed No. 1.

“The dynamic at the top of the women’s game seems similar to what it was when she was injured, it’s just maybe there’s more contenders there now.”

Bertens has opted out of the Aussie swing due to injury. The rest of the collective field at the Melbourne series will feature 49 of the WTA Tour’s top 50 players.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2021.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer households have until the end of January to exchange their waste carts for a different size at no cost. (Advocate file photo).
Waste cart exchange fee kicks in on Feb. 1 in Red Deer

Red Deerians have a couple more weeks to exchange their waste carts… Continue reading

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. A British Columbia company that feeds food waste to insects to produce pet food has received $6 million from the federal government for it’s new state-of-the-art plant just north of Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
B.C. company turning fly larvae into pet food gets $6M in federal funds

Fly larvae fed a mixture of food waste and agricultural byproducts

FortisBC is reporting record electricity usage as temperatures spike. (File photo
AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

AltaLink submits proposal to Alberta Utilities Commission

Annamie Paul, leader of The Green Party of Canada and byelection candidate for the Toronto Centre riding, walks back to her car after greeting supporters on election night, October 26, 2020. Paul has spent most of the past 10 months holed up in her apartment, just like you. But that stationary, pandemic-induced state belies the sharp pivot her party is making as it manoeuvres to break the tether of a one-issue party and reframe itself as a fresh inheritor of Canada’s social justice tradition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Annamie Paul charts new course for Green party — through crowded waters

Paul’s calls for guaranteed livable income, universal pharmacare and child care, and free post-secondary education

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Catherine Hay. Photo Submitted
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

Opinion: A trend that should keep Freeland up at night

With a raft of fresh economic forecasts and a promised $100 billion… Continue reading

A yard in Gascoyne, ND., which has hundreds of kilometres of pipes stacked inside it that are supposed to go into the Keystone XL pipeline, should it ever be approved are shown on April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
TC Energy decarbonization response to Keystone setback unlikely to sway ESG investors

Plans announced for the Keystone XL project to achieve net zero emissions

President-elect Joe Biden waves to reporters as walks out of The Queen theater Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Joe Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants

An estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status

This screen grab from a Zoom call shows new New York Mets general manager Jared Porter Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (Zoom via AP)
Report: Mets GM admits explicit texts to female reporter

Another embarrassing development for the Mets

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks near banners of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics are to open in six months on July 23. Interestingly, Tokyo organizers have no public program planned to mark the milestone. There is too much uncertainty for that right now. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Tokyo Olympics Q&A: 6 months out and murmurs of cancellation

Instead of a countdown celebration, the focus is on COVID-19

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard is shown during a bail hearing in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in this courtroom sketch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tadens Mpwene - POOL
Canadian fashion mogul seeking bail on U.S. charges of sex trafficking, racketeering

Lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada say Nygard has a history of not showing up to court

Most Read