NEW YORK — Bianca Andreescu began her day Saturday the same way she started every morning during her run to the U.S. Open title. By meditating and visualizing how she could beat her next opponent.
Those practices, adopted by the Canadian teenager years ago, seem to be working for her throughout her breakout season.
And Saturday’s visualization session — where she saw herself defeating American superstar Serena Williams for the U.S. Open championship — worked especially well.
“I put myself in situations (that) I think can happen in a match, basically,” Andreescu said Saturday night, hours after downing Williams 6-3, 7-5 in a thrilling women’s final at Arthur Ashe Stadium. “I just find ways to deal with that so I’m prepared for anything that comes my way.
“I think your biggest weapon is to be as prepared as you can. I really think that working your mind (is important) because at this level everyone knows how to play tennis.
“The thing that separates the best from the rest is just the mindset.”
The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont. — Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion — added meditation to her daily routine when her mother introduced her to it as a young adolescent.
She said she visualized her match against Williams unfolding, thinking about how certain points might play out, when she woke up Saturday morning.
It wasn’t the first time Andreescu had thought about playing the 37-year-old in a Grand Slam final.
“It’s so crazy, man,” she said, pausing to wipe tears from her eyes. “I’ve been dreaming of this moment for the longest time.”
“I guess these visualizations really, really work,” she added with a laugh.
Andreescu talked about her meditative process throughout the U.S. Open, and said after her semifinal victory against Belinda Bencic that she had visualized winning the Grand Slam in New York — even writing herself a fake winner’s cheque — when she was 15.
The US$3.85 million she earned with Saturday’s victory was more than she had envisioned back then, though.
“I’ve never held that much money in my life,” she said with a wide smile. “But yeah, like I said, I guess those visualizations are really working for me. It’s just crazy.”
Andreescu’s win extends her championship run to two straight tournaments, including last month’s Rogers Cup when she also beat Williams, and improves her ranking to a career-high No. 5 — up from No. 152 at the start of this year.
She’s also 8-0 against top 10 opponents, with all eight of those wins coming in 2019.
While Andreescu looks unstoppable now, she remembers a time when she would beat herself up after a tough loss.
“I would get really down on myself and I would get very negative thoughts going through my mind,” she said. “I would smash rackets. I’d just yell at myself during matches … even during practice, too.
“But I found that that way wasn’t working to my advantage at all. So I started seeing — I’ll say I started seeking some advice from other people. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to have a very positive outlook on everything.
“I think that’s really been helping me, even in tough situations.”
Andreescu still lets her emotions shine through in tense moments on court though, often pumping herself up after big points by shouting “yeah” and ”come on” into the air. Sometimes those emotions get her in trouble — like during her fourth-round match against American Taylor Townsend, when she drew a code violation for throwing her racket.
Andreescu maintained after that match that the racket toss was unintentional, and said she thought she did well keeping her cool with the rowdy New York fans actively cheering against her.
“If I just keep calm, stay as positive as I can, I think the crowd can’t beat me,” she added.
Andreescu said at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last month that her goal was to crack the top 10 by the end of the year. Now that she’s there, she’s adjusted her vision to new heights.
And Williams has provided the inspiration to get there.
“I’m sure I’m not the only person that’s looked up to her. She’s an inspiration to many, many people,” Andreescu said after beating the 23-time Grand Slam winner. “She’s truly a champion. … But yeah, I’ve really strived to be like her.
“Who knows? Maybe I can be even better.”