Canada's Bianca Andreescu shining as a tennis pro, as world's top player thought she might
Romanian tennis star Simona Halep advised teenager to turn pro during last year's Rogers Cup
Early November is the off-season for most pro female tennis players.
But for rising Canadian star Bianca Andreescu, there's a little more to do before she rests.
The Mississauga, Ont., native extended her season another two weeks, playing a pair of small tournaments on the International Tennis Federation circuit.
There are no ball boys or girls, no Hawk-Eye, and the crowds are a fraction of the larger pro events.
For the most part, it's just player vs. player, but it's where Andreescu continues to learn about herself.
In her first-round match of the Tevlin Challenger in Toronto earlier this month, the third-seeded Canadian was down a set and a service break before rallying.
"Every match is going to be different," Andreescu told CBC Sports afterward. "It's never going to be a perfect ride, but in the end, I managed to pull it out. I try to stay focused on what I can control and I found a way to win."
Advice from world No.1
The 17-year-old is learning on the fly during her rookie season on the WTA tour — a route world No.1 Simona Halep urged her to take.
The pair had a chance to talk during a promotional event for last year's Rogers Cup in Montreal during which Halep jokingly took credit for Andreescu's decision to turn pro.
Had such an amazing experience launching the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/minicouperogers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#minicouperogers</a> with Simona Halep in Downtown Montreal. 🇨🇦 <a href="https://t.co/TgREBCqOyn">pic.twitter.com/TgREBCqOyn</a>—@Bandreescu_
"I told her to move [up] and not to play junior [tennis] anymore," Halep said while in Toronto for the Rogers Cup in August. "She needs to face stronger players. I stayed too long in juniors, until [I was] 18. I think [that] was a little bit too much.
"I'm proud that I could win a Grand Slam in juniors — it was important in that moment and still is. [But] to get in the [Tour's] top [rankings] faster, you have to start [playing professional] earlier."
Andreescu won this year's Australian and French Open junior doubles titles while reaching a pair of semis in singles competition.
"[Halep] said that because she played a lot of juniors, it didn't really help her towards the end. If you're dominating juniors, go pro earlier if possible," Andreescu said.
Wins haven't been as abundant for the teenager and so Andreescu competes in ITF tournaments to accumulate enough rankings points to gain entry into WTA tournaments.
Depending on the tournament, sometimes it's only enough for a spot in the qualification rounds in which Andreescu must earn her spot into the main draw.
The process can be physically taxing, especially at Grand Slams, where three days worth of competition on a qualifier can be a huge disadvantage once they play against a fresh player in the main draw.
But at the end of the day, Andreescu knows that it's all part of the transition.
"In the pros, they don't give you anything — every point they play like it's their last. In juniors, you can [afford to] slide off a couple of points here and there. Everyone knows how to play tennis but it's the mind that really controls everything," Andreescu said.
Andreescu knows she's got the game to hang with the pros. This season alone, she's won a pair of ITF titles and has four wins against top-100 players.
INSANE point from <a href="https://twitter.com/Bandreescu_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Bandreescu_</a>! 😮 😮 😮 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RogersCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RogersCup</a> <a href="https://t.co/BK2m9vFDEr">pic.twitter.com/BK2m9vFDEr</a>—@WTA
Andreescu was awarded a wildcard into the singles main draw of the Citi Open and defeated world No.13 Kristina Mladenovic in the second round, becoming the first player born in the 21st century to beat a player ranked in the top 20.
But Andreescu's subsequent loss to former top-10 player Andrea Petkovic was a reminder that her fitness and mental fortitude aren't quite there yet despite having advanced talent for her age.
Congrats Bianca! What a fantastic week <a href="https://twitter.com/Bandreescu_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Bandreescu_</a> <a href="https://t.co/lf2p9XSBo4">pic.twitter.com/lf2p9XSBo4</a>—@ashishjena94
"In the second and third set, I was just done physically — I was dead. I couldn't really do anything so that's why I want to become stronger," Andreescu said.
In August, Andreescu reached a career-high ranking of 143 but hopes to reach the top 50 next season. She hopes to assert a more aggressive style that includes establishing a net presence and more control from the start of the point.
Andreescu doesn't have to look far for inspiration.
Fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov was 250th in the world at the end of 2016 before his deep runs at the Rogers Cup and U.S. Open vaulted him to No. 51 at the end of this year.
Both experienced junior Fed Cup and Davis Cup success and haven't missed a beat on the senior squad.
"That was outstanding what he did," Andreescu said. "It gives confidence to many [young] players around the world and [encourages] athletes to pick up a racquet. It gives Canadian players like me, Charlotte [Robillard-Millette], Felix [Auger-Aliassime], and Ben [Sigouin] confidence to do even better."
"I remember we were all playing nationals a couple years back and now we're playing pro tournaments. It's honestly unbelievable. We're family. We're a small group of people and all we do is support each other."