For Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu, hearing idols praise her game and compassion has been nothing short of crazy and overwhelming.
Accolades for the 19-year-old have been flooding in from around the globe after Andreescu won the Rogers Cup on Sunday in Toronto. An emotional Serena Williams retired in the first set of the final because of back spasms.
Andreescu was confused when the American star bowed out after falling behind 3-1, but immediately went over to console her.
“I’m a pretty outgoing person and I felt like I knew what to say at that moment because I knew exactly how she felt because of what I’ve been through the last couple of months with my shoulder and even last year with my back,” Andreescu told The Canadian Press in a phone interview on Monday.
“I just told her ‘You are a beast and you’re going to bounce back quicker than ever.’ “
Her actions quickly drew praise, including from Williams, who called the teen an “old soul” and a “great sportswoman.”
Those words were special for Andreescu, who grew up in Mississauga, Ont., idolizing the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
“I’ve watched (Williams) play my whole life,” she said. ”She’s a champion and she’s an inspiration on and off the court. So having those words come out of her mouth about me is pretty damn awesome.”
Many other high-profile names were also quick to offer words of approval, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called Andreescu “an inspiration to players across Canada” in a tweet.
“Today you showed tennis fans what sportsmanship is all about,” he wrote on Sunday.
Tennis icon Billie Jean King, famous for pushing for women’s equality in the sport, also joined the cheers on social media, saying Andreescu showed ”a level of maturity well beyond her years.”
“This is how women should treat each other. Her empathy and support for Serena were admirable. Competitors and women supporting women!” King said in the post.
As of Monday afternoon, Andreescu had been “laying low” with her parents and close friends. She had only used her phone to briefly post some photos to Instagram and wish Williams a speedy recovery, so she hadn’t seen the texts, tweets and other well-wishes sent her way.
When told about King’s message, Andreescu was temporarily rendered speechless.
“Oh my god,” she said after a moment.
“I know Billie Jean King and even Serena have fought for women’s equality. So my goal is to just follow in their footsteps and to contribute to that, too.”
Winning the Rogers Cup rocketed Andreescu up the WTA Tour rankings to No. 14 on Monday. Last week, she held the 27th spot.
At the end of 2018, the teen sat at No. 178.
This season, she has gone 38-5 across all levels, and Sunday’s result marked her 17th straight win, not counting when she has had to retire or withdraw from matches due to injury.
“All I can say is wow,” Andreescu said. “It’s just incredible what a year can do.”
Injuries have plagued Andreescu, however, including at the Rogers Cup last week where groin pain prompted a medical timeout in her quarterfinal win over world No. 3 Karolina Pliskova. Both her legs were wrapped and taped for her next two matches.
Andreescu also rehabbed a shoulder injury earlier this season, and said on Monday that she decided to skip this week’s Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio in order to allow her body to recover before the U.S. Open.
“At this point, after all I’ve been through with injuries, I want to listen to my body. And my body told me to just take it easy right now and get ready for the U.S. Open,” Andreescu said.
The final Grand Slam of the season starts Aug. 26 in New York.
The Rogers Cup win should help provide some momentum in New York, said Andreescu, who also plans to play an exhibition match in Albany, N.Y. on Aug. 20.
“It’s definitely given me confidence. And hopefully that can show on the court for the rest of the hard-court swing this year,” she said. ”I really do believe that I can do well at the U.S. Open and even crack the (WTA’s) top-10 by the end of this year.”
Meanwhile, the Rogers Cup produced record-breaking television ratings for Sportsnet.
The network says a record average of 594,100 viewers watched the 19-minute women’s final, up from last year’s average of 156,000.
Sportsnet says the 2019 edition of the women’s and men’s tournament — the men played in Montreal, with an average of 306,100 watching the final won by Spanish star Rafael Nadal — was the most-watched Rogers Cup in the network’s history.