As It Happens

Bianca Andreescu delivers 'inspiring' win for young tennis players, says last Canadian to win at home

After 50 years, Bianca Andreescu has put Canada back on top of the Rogers Cup and inspired tennis players across the country — including the last Canadian to win the title on home soil.

Faye Mlacak won the Canadian Open in 1969 and says Canadian tennis has a bright future in Bianca Andreescu

Before Bianca Andreescu, Faye Mlacak was the last Canadian to win a major championship on home soil when she won the Canadian Open in 1969. (Toronto Star/Getty Images)

For the first time in half a century, a Canadian was victorious in a major tennis championship on home soil. On Sunday, Bianca Andreescu won the Rogers Cup, after her opponent Serena Williams had to pull out with an injury. 

The 19-year-old won not far from her hometown of Mississauga, Ont., in front of cheering friends and family.

But someone else was watching with great interest. Faye Mlacak, formerly Faye Urban, was the last Canadian to win the Rogers Cup. That was 50 years ago, when it was known as the Canadian Open.

The Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, now 74, is very impressed by what she saw on the court.

As It Happens guest host Nil Köksal spoke with Mlacak about Andreescu's win and what it means for the sport in Canada.

Here is part of their conversation.

What did it mean to you to see Bianca Andreescu win the Rogers Cup?

First of all, I think she is a very deserving person to win this. She has enormous gifts and a maturity that is well beyond her years. She presents a complete package of what you need to be a champion.

It's a great thing for Tennis Canada to have this 50-year thing over with. They've done such a good job of nurturing the development of junior players and this year, particularly, you see the results of that in how many competitive, young Canadians we have.

Andreescu is the first Canadian to win the Rogers Cup since 1969. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

There was a couple of extraordinary things about this match. It only lasted about 19 minutes. It certainly wasn't an ideal way to win — fair to say, I think — with Serena Williams having to pull out. What did you make of all of those surprises in just such a short time?

I think if it played out under any circumstances, even Serena being fit and able to play, I think Bianca would have still won. 

What did you make of Ms. Andreescu's immediate reaction — running over, kneeling beside [Williams]?

I think she's aware of situations, and for a young person, she has a lot of experience.

She has the empathy to understand what someone is going through when she's been through it herself and I think that's another sign of maturity.

Bianca Andreescu and Serena Williams shared an emotional embrace after Williams was forced to retire from the Rogers Cup final due to injury. Andreescu is the first Canadian woman to win the Rogers Cup since Faye Urban in 1969. 2:14

Take me back to when you won all of those years ago. How do you remember that win?

Some days you have good days. Some days you have bad days. Some days everything's working for you. Some days nothing will. This was one of the good days.

I remember playing well. I was quick to the ball. I wasn't sluggish. Things were going my way. I was able to hit the ball early and see it clearly.

I was just so lucky that I had one of the good days on that day. And, you know, the next day it could have been a completely different story.

Andreescu is congratulated by Serena Williams after the legendary American tennis star had to pull out of the match due to injury. (USA TODAY Sports)

The sweet feeling of victory may not change in all of those decades, but so much in the sport has changed since 1969. What was it like then?

It was before the transition of money coming into the game.

You played on your own. Generally speaking, you didn't have a coach traveling with you. You had some expense money come your way, but there was no prize money and you relied on yourself a lot.

What do you think Ms. Andreescu's win means for tennis in Canada now?

What I like about this is, for Bianca, she checked off a box. It's always big to win your own country's championship. 

No one has to ask Bianca this question anymore. She could just get on with all the other things she's going to accomplish.

As you watched her play, do you see similarities between Bianca Andreescu and yourself?

Can you imagine what it would be like to have one of those heavy wooden rackets in your hand and try to hit the ball? Well, that's what I played with.

This generation does everything everything better, faster, more efficiently, more professionally and they have a more professional attitude toward things because with the money in the sport, they're able to travel with their coaches, their massage therapists, and their agents.

That creates a level of professionalism that we certainly never had.

But when I see Bianca run around the court at her speed, I don't see myself in that — for sure.

You went on to do other things after tennis.

I quit at 25 because I wasn't able to support myself.

I got a job in banking and another job is I was a reporter for the Toronto Telegram. I covered racquet sports.

I stayed involved in tennis from the point of view of reporting for the Toronto Telegram before it closed down.

Have you had a chance to meet Ms. Andreescu yet?

No. I understand she wanted to. I would have had a chance today because I was invited to where she's going to be but, unfortunately, I have some health issues that wouldn't allow me to do that. So I'm hoping maybe another time.

You can play her and interview her?

It would just be a delight to tell her what she means to the tennis scene and how inspiring she is.

Well, she might have something to say to you about what you meant to her and to tennis, as well. I understand she knows all about you. What do you think about that?

I'm very surprised at that. I think that's a tribute to her that she has that awareness — that she has some appreciation for the history behind it.

Written by Richard Raycraft and John McGill. Produced by Richard Raycraft. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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