TORONTO — Bianca Andreescu’s break-out year, culminating with a historic win in the finals of the US Open, is expected to provide a huge boost to Canadian tennis.
“It inspires everyone to pick up a racket, whether it’s kids or adults,” said Tennis Canada vice-president Tulla Bateman. “Everybody’s talking about Bianca.”
Bateman commented as Tennis Canada prepared to host 150 tennis fans and Andreescu supporters who came to see the 19-year-old take on veteran Serena Williams at the US Open.
The finals match at one of the sport’s most prestigious saw a tenacious newcomer at the beginning of her career beat a veteran player with an illustrious track record.
The match proved to be a special challenge for organizers and competitors in a local club tournament in Edmonton that was scheduled long ahead of the Andreescu-Williams contest.
There was no TV in the small clubhouse where the Saville Community Sports Centre club championships went ahead on nine outdoor courts. No wi-fi, either.
Spectators in the bleachers looked down at their phones for the latest developments from the match in New York, then looked up to follow the games in front of them.
Instead of being inspired to pick up a racket, at least one player sought to put hers down.
“There’s a young girl, I think she’s 10 or 11 years old, and she asked if we could change her match. And how could you say no to her, because she wants to watch Bianca,” said tournament director Chad Miller, noting that he was recording the match on his PVR.
Andreescu’s semifinal win over Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic attracted as many as 1.5 million viewers Thursday evening on TSN — the biggest US Open audience ever for the Bell Media sports channel.
The teen is particularly popular among the Romanian-Canadian community, who are already counting her among the greats.
Adrian Ardelean, a Montreal-based Romanian radio host, was at a viewing party at a local bar to glean some reaction for his weekly show on Sunday.
“We are a lot of Romanians and all — well I guess almost all — are fans of Bianca because of her Romanian roots,” he said.
“There’s been an explosion in her career and we hope she’ll be able to continue because she’s been able to string together a lot of strong matches.”
Ardelean said Toronto’s Romanian community — which is double the size of Montreal’s roughly 50,000 — has apparently been planning a party to honour her exploits, regardless of what happens at the US Open.
“She may not be there because of her schedule, but there will be a party in her honour,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mont-Tremblant resident Pierre Paquin had been trying to find a place to watch the match with his wife Michele in Montreal when they found a bar showing the final.
“It’s fantastic, it’s surprising given where she was one year ago,” Paquin said. “But having seen her play, it’s not surprising.”
Andreescu’s mere appearance at the US Open final put her into the top 10 of women’s professional tennis. She began the 2019 season ranked 178th in the world.
Paquin said Andreescu is a testament to hard work and could serve as an example to youngsters.
“If you work hard and have a good work ethic,” Paquin said.
David Paddon, The Canadian Press