So long as she’s able to play—and even if she’s half-mummified in physio tape—Bianca Andreescu doesn’t lose. The 19-year-old Canadian won the Rogers Cup on Sunday in front of the home crowd, continuing a season as woozy as it is dominant.
Andreescu started the year wading through qualifying rounds in Australia. Now her 2019 season contains the following: four months of injury layoff, two of the biggest titles on the tour, a “biggest drama queen ever” title courtesy of a salty multiple-major champ, a walkover and second-set retirement, and a 7-0 record against top-10 players.
Success has come in sporadic bursts for this inventive, powerful player whose main obstacle is her own health. Angelique Kerber might find Andreescu’s frequent medical timeouts to be irritating gamesmanship, but she can’t argue with the scoreboard: a 36-4 record in 2019, and the No. 14 ranking in the world.
Andreescu blazed through the early season to win Indian Wells, then lasted four matches the following week in Miami before she retired with a right shoulder injury. After two months of recovery, she returned to play the French Open, only to withdraw before her second-round match. She played no matches between that walkover in Paris on May 31 and the first round at Toronto on August 6. Even if the rest had helped her shoulder, by last week’s semifinal she had picked up injuries to both legs. Long mileage on hard court can be brutal on the lower body, and four of her six matches in Toronto went three sets. She took out Eugenie Bouchard in the first test, two other talented young players in Daria Kasatkina and Sofia Kenin, and two high-seeded power-hitters in Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova.
Like Indian Wells, this title run showcased Andreescu’s full repertoire. It’s difficult to think of any active WTA player who melds craft and power as easily as she does. Naomi Osaka, who regained the No. 1 ranking this week, crushes the ball with Serena-type pace, but is still figuring out the art of misdirection. Martina Navratilova described Andreescu as Martina Hingis with power, which seems apt enough. Change-of-pace is the perfect strategy when the extremes are as distant as Andreescu’s huge topspin drives and dissipating drop shots. The wider the gulf in the opponent’s expectations, the deadlier it gets. You can see that uncertainty play out to Andreescu’s advantage in many of these points:
Yesterday’s final offered a first career meeting with Serena Williams, the stuff of any young player’s daydreams, but it ended in anticlimax after just 19 minutes. Down 1-3 in the first set, Williams retired, unable to play through a back spasm that had begun during her semifinal. “I’ve had this before and it’s, like, 24, 36 hours where I’m just in crazy spasm and then it’s like gone,” Williams said after the match, explaining that the spasm disrupted her body rotation and sleep.
The new champion consoled a teary Williams, calling her a “fucking beast” throughout her career and displaying a fan’s knowledge of her injury history, before she hopped up on the umpire’s chair to celebrate with her trophy. If it wasn’t clear already, the image of Andreescu draped in a maple-leaf flag with the maple-leaf trophy made it indisputable: Canada can comfortably claim the best under-20 prospect on both tours.