As It Happens

'She is a warrior,' Bianca Andreescu's coach says after her U.S. Open victory

Bianca Andreescu's ability to keep her cool during high-stakes tennis is the "true trademark of a champion," says her coach Sylvain Bruneau.

The Canadian tennis star is now 5th in the women's world tennis rankings

Canada's Bianca Andreescu kisses the championship trophy after winning the women's singles final against Serena Williams on Saturday in New York City. (Elsa/Getty Images)
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Bianca Andreescu's ability to keep her cool during high-stakes tennis is the "true trademark of a champion," says her coach Sylvain Bruneau.

The 19-year-old star, Canada's first Grand Slam singles champion, has climbed 10 spots in the women's world tennis rankings to a career-high of No. 5 following her U.S. Open victory over American veteran Serena Williams on Saturday.

Bruneau credits Andreescu's victory to her mindset as much as her raw physical talent. What sets her apart, he said, is her fearlessness and her ability to mix it up on the court. 

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

How did you feel at that moment [when Andreescu won]?

A lot of joy, a lot of pride, a lot of satisfaction, feeling "mission accomplished," and just a little bit overwhelmed.

Bianca Andreescu defeated Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 to capture the women's singles U.S. Open title at Arthur Ashe Stadium. 1:09

[Andreescu and Williams] shook hands with each other ... and then she went down on her knees, she kissed the court and she rolled onto her back. I mean, it was just something else to see. She was embracing the moment, wasn't she?

Oh yeah, she was and she should. 

Over the last three weeks, she's been doing exceptionally well, focusing, working hard, getting ready everyday for the next day. And I feel that when she actually won the tournament, there was a bit of release for her and it's just normal that she grabbed the moment and did what she did.

After Andreescu won, she pumped her fists and congratulated Williams on a well-played match. Then she lay on the court and covering her face as she processed the win. (Danielle Parhizkaran/USA TODAY Sports)

She wasn't just playing an opponent, was she? She was playing a legend. ... What did she have to overcome in order to beat Serena Williams?

So much, so much. Because since she's a kid, she's looked up to Serena Williams. 

So you prepare for the biggest match of your career and you're going to play someone that you've been looking up to all your life, and you're going to do this on the biggest stadium in the world in front of the entire planet.

And you need to go in there and believe that actually you can do this. Because if you don't believe before the match that you belong there and you can do this, then there's no chance to make it happen. 

She needed to, right at the coin toss, look Serena in the eye and send a clear message that she was there to play and to perform and she believed she could do it.

'She's an inspiration to many, many people,' Andreescu said of American Serena Williams after beating the 23-time Grand Slam winner on Saturday. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

What is it for you, do you think, that really sets her apart?

Definitely the mental aspect. She is a warrior. She is the ultimate fighter. She's a born competitor. And I think that's very important. 

The way she handles those key moments, pressure moments, in a match, how she responds to them and how she elevates her game when that happens, is incredible. And that's, you know, a true trademark of a champion.

And this is really key to what people are saying a lot about, is that she doesn't just play an incredible physical game; she plays a remarkable mental game. ... Did you see that develop in her?

Serena called her an old soul. She has the spiritual side a little bit. And so meditation and visualization and connection and all of that is part of what she does. 

But it's not something that I have anything to do with. This is something she decided to do on her own and it's been working for her. And I'm very supportive of it.

But what is "it"?

Well, it's just that she takes the time to work on her mind.

Andreescu celebrates with coach Sylvain Bruneau after her U.S. Open victory. (Elsa/Getty Images)

What do you do in order to motivate someone when she just feels like she's hit a wall?

It's not always easy. Most of the time, it's extremely difficult. And we saw the adversity she encountered in the finals.

There's a basically 24,000 people rooting against her, rooting all for Serena. And you need to overcome this.

And that's where you need to be able to go somewhere where most people might not be able to. And she's got that talent and that will.

We saw her parents in the stands. She saluted them. They were very happy, obviously. These are people that immigrated to Canada and gave her everything they could to support her in her tennis. What role have Bianca's parents played in keeping her so grounded?

They've been very good. They're supportive. They're behind her 100 per cent. They have a great, great relationship. 

They've been really there for her. I think she recognizes that. She's extremely respectful and grateful for what her parents have done for her. 

She competed against a legend, won against a legend and now she is her own legend. Where does she go from there?

Well, we'll see. I mean, I've heard a lot of people compare her to Serena. But let's be humble. She's got one Grand Slam win, and Serena has 23. There is a long way to go. 

I know that Bianca doesn't want to stop there. Obviously, she's only 19. She's starting her career. 

So we need to keep our heads down and work hard and keep her grounded and keep doing what we've been doing. And then, who knows what's going to happen?

But obviously, she sits at No. 5 in the world today in the rankings, so she's only going to look ahead and try to get better, and hopefully she can. I think she can.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC Sports. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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