#SheTheNorth: Bianca Andreescu always dreamed big. Now she's inspiring others to do the same.
Former coach Aref Jallali says teen's determination immediately set her apart from the other kids
Long before she ever became a household name, Bianca Andreescu had her sights set on greatness — quite literally, with the words "I won" written on her hand before taking to the court.
It's the kind of determination her former coach Aref Jallali says immediately set Andreescu apart from the other kids.
"She writes 'I won' on her hand and she shows it to me: 'Aref, I won! I'm going to get it done and come out,'" Jallali said. "She still has that type of determination. If she wants something she'll get it, since she was young."
Even at age 11, he said, Andreescu dreamt big.
And so asked if he is at all surprised by the 19-year-old's meteoric rise to tennis stardom, Jallali responds resolute: "Nope, never."
The Bianca buzz is at an all-time high for the next generation of tennis players. Online, the Mississauga, Ont., native has been crowned with the hashtag #SheTheNorth, parallelling the one Torontonians tweeted all the way to the Toronto Raptors' 2019 NBA Finals win.
The Raptors weren't shy about using the hashtag either:
SHE THE CHAMP! <br><br>Congrats, <a href="https://twitter.com/Bandreescu_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Bandreescu_</a> 👏🏽<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeTheNorth</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SheTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SheTheNorth</a> <a href="https://t.co/QEugBwH24W">pic.twitter.com/QEugBwH24W</a>—@Raptors
On Saturday, Andreescu became the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title, beating Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 in the U.S. Open women's final in New York.
And that a kid from Toronto could defeat one of tennis's undisputed legends, Serena Williams, is inspiring even the youngest tennis enthusiasts to reach for greatness too.
Sara Bosch, 10, is one of them.
"I find that she always perseveres and never stops," Bosch said at a tennis tournament in Toronto ahead of her hometown idol's historic match. "It makes me feel like maybe one day I can be as good as her."
As of Saturday, Nikita Reuter, 8, hadn't decided whether Andreescu or Williams was her favourite.
But knowing that someone from so close to home could soar to the heights of tennis, Reuter said, "I feel like I can make it past anything."
The significance of the moment wasn't lost on 13-year-old Jenson Bicanic, either.
"It's been 40 years since a Canadian has been in the finals of a U.S. Open, so that's pretty big."
'It's like me playing in the finals'
Bicanic had the chance to be the ballboy for Andreescu at the Rogers Cup.
"She was very kind ... very active and fun, full of joy," he said, recalling meeting her before match.
But on the court, it's all strategy, he said.
"I like how aggressive she is," said Bicanic. "She always moves around the other player."
Tennis coach Rachel Gould says she can see Andreescu's inspiration firing up young players and says the star is making a real impact in terms of growing the sport in Canada.
"I think overall there's more players coming out and playing even, with parents, especially more and more females. I'd say more girls playing this year I think as well," she said.
Gould hopes to see that interest extend past this season.
Besides, you never know where the next Andreescu might be playing.
"It's like me playing in the finals of the U.S. Open in like five years," said Bicanic.
"It inspires me a lot."