Bianca Andreescu has the poise and game to make Indian Wells win just the start
18 MARCH 2019 • 12:44PM
As unlikely as Bianca Andreescu’s wild card victory in Indian Wells was on Sunday, she has actually been specialising in upset wins for years. When only 12 years old for instance, Andreescu’s confident father Nicu challenged his daughter to a match while on a family holiday in Florida and bet her $50 (£38) on the outcome.
The result? “I creamed him,” Andreescu revealed in a recent interview.
Anyone who saw Andreescu, a precociously talented 5ft 7in 18-year-old from Canada, in Indian Wells over the last couple of weeks will recognise that fearlessness and conviction. Having ended last year ranked No. 178, Andreescu was awarded a wild card into Indian Wells – tennis’s most respected event outside the grand slams – on the back of an excellent start to 2019 that began in Auckland with back-to-back wins over Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams.
Buoyed by her recent improvement, Andreescu surged to the Indian Wells title with a three-set win over former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber in Sunday’s final. Along the way she also took out the world No. 6 Elina Svitolina and destroyed two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza by a barely credible 6-0, 6-1 scoreline. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was so impressed by Andreescu becoming Indian Wells’ first ever wild card winner that he tweeted on Sunday: “From a wild card to the Indian Wells champion – Bianca Andreescu just made history.” Andreescu was even more succinct, shedding her usual poise to express her state of shock: “I’m the F-ing champion of Indian Wells,” she told reporters.
She’s done itCanadian teen Bianca Andreescu makes history in winning @BNPPARIBASOPEN title https://buff.ly/2udTUSk
Andreescu’s disbelief was understandable – as she pointed out, this time a year ago she was in Japan competing in the far less salubrious surrounds of a $25k Futures event, the lowest tier of professional tennis. On that occasion, her remuneration for losing in the second round was £295. On Sunday she was presented with a cheque for £1.02m.
The pathway to glory in the Californian desert began in southern Romania where Andreescu first started playing tennis as a seven year old. Having been born in Canada, Andreescu moved to Romania – where her parents are from – for a brief period in her childhood. She then returned to Ontario and joined Tennis Canada’s national training programme in Toronto.
The Romanian influence remains strong in Andreescu though – she still visits the country regularly, seeing family and helping to rescue stray dogs. She also idolised the Romanian national hero and world No. 3 Simona Halep growing up, and plays with a similarly textured game style. Andreescu boasts far more power than Halep, but what continually drew gasps from the Indian Wells crowd – including the vociferous minority brandishing Romanian flags – was her devastating use of the drop shot.
This combination of beast and beauty is marking ‘Bibi’ out as a future world No. 1. “She’s going to be a star. She’s great news for tennis,” said the legendary Martina Navratilova last week.
Andreescu’s quick-fire ascent adds to the intrigue around women’s tennis, which looks poised to enter a golden age. Naomi Osaka, the hugely engaging 21-year-old, has won the last two majors and sits at the top of the rankings, while teenagers like Andreescu and America’s Amanda Anisimova are enjoying breakthrough years.
The Indian Wells win was also another major boost for Canadian tennis, a nation yet to produce a grand-slam singles champion. Building on the foundations laid by Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard, Canada now boasts arguably the three most exciting teenagers in tennis, with Andreescu’s male counterparts Denis Shapovalov, 19, and Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18 already in the world’s top 60.
Andreescu, now up to a dizzyingly high ranking of No. 24, will attempt to back up her first title win at the Miami Open this week.