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Bianca Andreascu’s extended break from tennis has served her well


ROME – Bianca Andrescu’s first Italian Open tennis star was disqualified in the quarterfinals against steamroller Iga Svitek.

But despite failing to stop top-seeded Sweetech from extending their winning streak to 26 matches, Andrescu still sat in the Roman sun with a wide smile on his face.

Defeat at this stage does not have the same edge as defeat at other stages of his career.

“Honestly, I’ve got to get out of there and play with him again,” Andrescu said in an interview after his defeat, 7-6 (2), 6-0 on Friday. “If I look at myself a year ago, I’ve made a lot of progress in returning to tour and handling my wins and losses. I’m just super motivated. I want to go back to court now and work more aggressively or not.”

Andreascu, a 21-year-old Canadian from the Toronto suburbs, is one of tennis’ greatest talents, having won the US Open women’s singles title by beating Serena Williams in a straight set in her first attempt in 2019.

In the career-high No. 4 ranking the following month, she will be ranked No. 72 on Monday but still has that charming mix of excellence and punch and the rare ability to change gears and spins. She also has powerful legs reminiscent of her role model Kim Clijsters which helps her cover the court explosively and generate big-time motion despite the lack of tall players (she is 5-foot-6).

“He has no shots he can’t hit,” said analyst and former top five player Daniela Hantuchova, who was commenting on the courtside on Friday as Andrescu and Svitek played on the tour for the first time.

“In that first set, Bianca was not far from her top level,” Hantuchova said. “For me, it was the best set of tennis ever in women’s competition. In a way, it almost looks like a mirror against a mirror. Trying to. Both are great players, and I said during the game that I hope we will see this matchup many times. It will be a wonderful competition.

But so far, Andrescu, unlike the 20-year-old Svitek, has only been a part-time threat. There’s a series of injuries, a career-long anxiety, and the recent move to take her most recent extended break since the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California in October 2021, before returning for a game. Competition in Stuttgart last month.

She used the time of her visit to serve the community, volunteer at a children’s hospital, and provide shelter for victims of domestic violence. She attended a wellness retreat in Costa Rica and focused on developing additional mental devices to complement the visualization and meditation work she had begun during her junior career at Sweetac. .

“After Indian Wells, I don’t want to play legally, like, now,” she said. “I don’t know if I was dramatic, but how I was feeling at that moment. But now, I’m glad I didn’t stop, because of the time off I now value my time in court, because that was the decision that came from me. It wasn’t an external thing like injury or disease or anything else. It was my call, and so I felt very empowered, and it was a big step towards gaining more control over my life and not putting pressure on myself and enjoying myself.

“During that break, I basically did everything I liked, and I told myself, ‘If I go back, I want to stay in that mindset. Obviously, I want to be competitive and frustrated if I lose, for example,’ I enjoy myself on the court and I’m more motivated by the defeat than by crawling on my bed and crying all night.

Andreascu, like his tennis star Naomi Osaka and some other famous players of his generation, is open about the mental-health challenges he faces. With three tournaments in her last comeback, Andrescu is clearly in a good position and going to the French Open with speed on the red soil suitable for her diverse game.

She arrived on Friday in an interview without any tape or Toma ice pack on her body.

“Nothing,” she said. “I’m especially grateful for my body, which has been a big problem for me.

The challenge in travel – a 10-month test of endurance and resilience – is to maintain health and vitality.

Her team, led by veteran coach Sven Groneveld, is focused on keeping her fresh and calling her bluffs, according to Andrescu.

“They can call me defensive, and I think it really helps,” she said.

Groeneveld, whose highest-profile student in recent years was recently retired Maria Sharapova, declined to comment on Andrewscu because they are “still early” in their relationship. But he has a systematic approach to his work, sitting on the courtside during the game and picking up points, including other details, including laps on the main structure of the game and the player’s concentration.

“He could write like 10 books, including all the notes he took. It’s fun,” Andrescu said.

As the first and only Grand Slam singles champion in Canada, Andrescu has already written a book about him, “Bianca Andrewscu: She the North,” which was published in 2019, and she herself wrote a photo book, Bibi’s Goat, published last year. Sports: Tennis, meditation and a story about a dog named Koko.

But with the surprise retirement of Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Ashleigh Barty earlier this season, women’s sports leaders can expect Andrewscu’s tennis story to have just begun.

Before Huntuchova and anyone else watching the opening set on Friday, Sweetek has a sunny game before he kicks Andrescu into gear.

“He clearly got some confidence from that first set,” Andrescu said. “I was trying to be more aggressive, but at least in the second set I was losing an inch. But she’s on a 25-match streak, for a reason now make that 26.

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