Rising GTA tennis star looking to take down top players at Rogers Cup
Bianca Andreescu, 17, earned wild-card entry to tournament after Maria Sharapova withdrew
Canadian tennis fans looking forward to cheering on a hometown favourite at this week's Rogers Cup will have a local player to root for: 17-year-old rising star Bianca Andreescu.
Andreescu, who was born in Mississauga and trains in Vaughan, found out last week that she had earned a wild card spot in the tournament after former world number one Maria Sharapova had to withdraw due to injury.
Andreescu is coming off a big week in which she picked up her first win over a player ranked in the top 20. Andreescu made it into the quarter-finals at the Citi Open in Washington by beating number 12-ranked Kristina Mladenovic.
Andreescu has been attending Rogers Cup finals for years and has dreamed about playing, and winning, matches there even with one of the toughest fields the tournament has seen in years.
"Just being part of all of that is such an honour and a dream come true," Andreescu told CBC Toronto on Monday.
With her own rise in tennis, Andreescu says she's getting to know some of her idols, which she hopes will help improve her game.
"I'm starting to practice with them more often and playing with them," she said, "which gives me a lot of confidence and experience, which is what I need right now."
Andreescu figures her player's box will be full of friends and family at each match, but is also anticipating support from the entire crowd.
"For the crowd to be for me, I think that's really going to help me in my matches," she said.
For the first time since 2011, all of the players currently ranked in the top 10 will compete at the Roger's Cup.
That includes Karolina Pliskova, who just took over the women's world number-one ranking. With tough competition and only about 100 points separating her from second-ranked Simona Halep, Pliskova knows she's in for a tough fight this week.
"It's going to be tough to stay there," Pliskova told reporters Monday.
Halep, the reigning champion, said she is buoyed by the fact she always plays well in Toronto.
"I cannot say I feel pressure, because it's a good thing that I'm in the position to defend a title," Halep told reporters.
But she says she's not thinking about taking over the number-one ranking — at least not yet.
"It's a big goal and maybe the most important goal for the near future," Halep said. "If it's going to happen I'll be very happy, for sure."
Meanwhile, Garbine Muguruza said it's not just the strong field that poses a challenge for her. As the winner of this year's Wimbledon title, she feels she has a target on her back.
"People think that just because I won a Grand Slam it makes it easier," she said. "It doesn't make it easier because everyone wants to beat you."
The Rogers Cup runs until August 13 at the Aviva Centre at York University.
With files from Greg Ross