Bianca Andreescu became the youngest Indian Wells winner since a 17-year-old Serena Williams won the tournament in 1999. The 18-year-old Canadian tennis star has shaken up the WTA ranks and signaled her entry on the big stage, becoming the first wild card to achieve the title at the WTA mandatory premiere event.
“I celebrated with a good in-and-out burger,” said Andreescu, giggling, sounding like your average 18-year-old. “Right after I got off the site. It was the first stop”. The win over former world No. 1 and three-time slam winner Angelique Kerber has been a revelation for the tennis world.
She’s risen like a phoenix since the beginning of the year, becoming the first qualifier to make the Auckland final in January, her first tournament of the year, and defeating the world top female players on her way to her breakthrough win.
"Now that I am gaining more and more experience and getting more and more confident playing against these top-level players, I am definitely not starstruck anymore," said Andreescu, during a conference call with reporters, after having flown straight from California, arriving in Miami at two in the morning the night before.
She is competing in the second half of the “Sunshine Double,” the Miami Open. "But I want to just go into every match not trying to focus on who's on the other side and just focus on myself." The young player has demonstrated that confidence is not an issue for her.
But fitness level and preventing injuries is. Andreescu has sat out of the sport due to foot stress fractures and back issues in previous years. The heavy stress on her body showed during the crucial third set against Kerber, with the Canadian asking for her coach when she was down early in the set.
"Tennis Canada has a great group of doctors and I've been running some tests with them to see what the problem is," explained Andreescu. She touched on what her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, advised to help her turn around the match when she was struggling with fatigue in the third.
Andreescu noted that it took just a few chosen words that triggered her fight. “What Sylvain told me was very inspirational. He really has a way with words, that go straight to the heart. So that definitely gave me a lot of motivation,” inspiring the Canadian to take the momentum away from Kerber.
“I tried not to focus on the score at that point. No matter what the score is, you can always turn it around. And I think I proved that on Sunday”. But striking the right balance between competition and recuperation is also key.
"But definitely after Miami I will take a good two or three weeks off just figuring out what to do better with my body and my nutrition and my mind." The 18-year-old doesn’t seem terribly worried about her fitness level, however.
She attributed her dip in form to feeling overwhelmed playing such a high-profile match for the first time. "I've never been in a situation like that before. Never been in a final of a premier event playing a very high-level opponent," Andreescu said.
"So I think it was also all of the emotions and all of the tension that was going through my body that caused me to get even more tired than I usually would." Born in Mississauga, Canada, Andreescu’s heritage is Romanian.
She actually began her tennis training in Pitesti, Romania, when her parents moved back to their home country when she was seven, but settled back in Canada a few years later. “I started playing tennis in Romania, so I definitely owe all of that to my parents,” Andreescu explained, citing her transition from Romanian tennis to Canadian training.
“If I had started playing in Canada, I don’t think anything would have been different… Definitely my Romanian roots are the passion that I have. But then I dedicate everything to Tennis Canada because I’ve been with them so long, and they supported me.
I’m really grateful for that”. Comparisons to another famous Romanian player, former world No. 1 (and current No. 3), Simona Halep, are inevitable, with many fans calling her “Simona Halep II,” a notion that Andreescu is flattered by, but she’s also eager to establish her own stamp on the game.
“It’s incredible to be able to be at this stage, and to be called Simona Halep II. Now that I’m doing better and better, I want to just make a name for myself,” continued Andreescu. Interestingly, it was the advice from Halep that encouraged the talented player to turn professional at such a young age.
“[Halep and I] met at Tennis Canada in Montreal, at the Rogers Cup [a few years back]. I remember a car ride back to the club. I asked her for some advice, and she said to stop playing juniors, and to start playing the pros.
And to also to make sure I have a good schedule in the calendar year, make sure I have time off. And that’s what I’ve been doing. I remember two months after I stopped playing the junior events and then went straight to the pros.
And that definitely gave me more experience, and I’m sure it helped me get where to I am right now”. After Andreescu’s life-altering win, accolades from the sport of tennis and from admirers around the world poured in.
She talked about how it felt to be celebrated by the biggest names in tennis history.
"It was definitely overwhelming to have so many amazing champions congratulate me and recognize me.
I think what stood out the most was Rod Laver, Billie Jean King, and Justin Trudeau." Mature beyond her years, the tennis phenomenon is exceeding all her tennis goals. "From the beginning of the year, my goal was to get into the main draw of the French Open, and I already accomplished that.
So now I have to sit down and re-evaluate my goals with my coach." She’s also has the taste of victory, and she wants more of it. “Every match I play I try to learn something from it. The last couple of weeks I definitely learned that even if my body is running out, I can push through with my mind.
That’s what I did in the final match. And I’m really pleased with that. I’ve learned that I’m capable to put up with high-level players. My game… throws other players off. If I keep improving my game, then a lot of more good things could happen”.
Good things have certainly been happening for the 18-year-old sensation, and if her BNP Paribas title is any indication, they will continue in spades.
From a wild card to the Indian Wells champion – Bianca Andreescu just made history.