Tennis

Bianca Andreescu prepared on all fronts for grass season in search of 1st Wimbledon win

Of all the high highs and low lows in Bianca Andreescu’s tennis career, hardly any have come on grass. Now, with both her physical and mental health in tow, the Mississauga, Ont., native is set for a month of playing on green courts, culminating with Wimbledon in late June.

Former coach Sylvain Bruneau says Canadian's game should adapt well to surface

Canada's Bianca Andreescu, who was eliminated in the second round of the French Open, is set for a full grass season. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Of all the high highs and low lows in Bianca Andreescu's tennis career, hardly any have come on grass.

Now, with both her physical and mental health in tow, the Mississauga, Ont., native is set for a month of playing on green courts, culminating with Wimbledon in late June.

Since 2019 — the breakout season in which she won Indian Wells, the Rogers Cup and the U.S. Open — Andreescu has played just four matches on grass, winning one. The lone win came against American Christina McHale, then ranked 239th, at the 2021 Eastbourne International.

The 21-year-old has twice played Wimbledon, in 2017 and 2021, but lost in the first round both times. She'll open the 2022 grass season at the Berlin Open this week.

But despite the relative inexperience, former coach Sylvain Bruneau says Andreescu shouldn't have any trouble adapting her game.

"She's very natural, very talented, which I think helps on grass. If you have that skillset and complete game and just that natural ability to adapt, I think she's got that," Bruneau told CBC Sports.

"My first message would be to her that I think her game is suited for every surface."

In December, Andreescu announced she was stepping away from tennis to recover following a "challenging" two years, which included multiple physical injuries, mental struggles and a bout with COVID-19.

WATCH | Andreescu reflects on break from sport:

Bianca Andreescu reflects on taking mental break, writing children’s book

4 months ago
Duration 7:27
As tennis player Bianca Andreescu prepares to make a comeback on the courts, she spoke to Andrew Chang about why she took a mental break from tennis and what motivated her to write a children’s book on well-being.

She's now ranked 71st among WTA players, down from her career-best fourth, having only played on clay since her return to the sport in April. She's won seven times against four losses since then, with each of the latter coming at the hands of players currently ranked among the top 20.

"A lot of days, I did not feel like myself, especially while I was training and/or playing matches. I felt like I was carrying the world on my shoulders," Andreescu said after her first match back in April.

Her newfound mindset was made clear following a loss to World No. 1 Iga Swiatek at the Italian Open.

"Honestly, I'm just fired up to get back out there and play her again," Andreescu said after her loss. "If I look at myself a year ago, there's just been so much progress in the way I'm handling being back on tour and my wins and my losses. I'm just super motivated."

WATCH | Andreescu victorious in 1st match of season:

Bianca Andreescu returns and advances to 2nd round in Stuttgart

4 months ago
Duration 3:11
Playing in her first competitive match since October, Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., beat Germany's Jule Niemeier 7-6 (5), 6-3 to advance to the second round of the Stuttgart Open.

Andreescu and Bruneau, who now works for Tennis Canada as a women's coach, parted ways almost exactly one year ago.

Bruneau said the split was amicable. He wanted to spend more time with his family in Montreal, so he proposed adding a second coach to Andreescu's team. But Andreescu preferred to have a single, dedicated coach.

They still work together through Tennis Canada and maintain constant contact, per Bruneau.

"She's like my third daughter. So I really want the best for her. I care about her. And I think it's the same for her if you ask her," he said.

Andreescu now works with Dutchman Sven Groeneveld, who previously coached Maria Sharapova.

Bruneau said he's noticed improvement in Andreescu's first serve under Groeneveld. He also noted that she's been getting to the ball earlier — something that should serve her well on grass.

"I think it's something that she can have to her game where she can come in and intercept more because she has so many opportunities to do so," he said.

WATCH | Andreescu falls to Bencic in 2nd round at French Open:

Andreescu falls to Bencic in French Open 2nd round

3 months ago
Duration 4:15
No. 14 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland bested Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the third round of the French Open, where she will face Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que.

While the 7-4 record on clay was a solid step forward, and grass season comes with plenty of unknowns, Andreescu may begin to feel the pressure again when the tour returns to hard courts, including the National Bank Open (formerly the Rogers Cup) in August and the U.S. Open soon after.

Bruneau said the key for Andreescu will be getting matches under her belt.

"When she plays a lot of matches, her confidence goes up in her court sense and her vision and her feel on the court," he said.

If that confidence can carry through 2022, the dominant version of Andreescu may be back before long.

Fernandez aiming to return from injury in Canada

At Roland Garros, Andreescu dropped a second-round match to Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic, ending hopes of an all-Canadian battle with Leylah Fernandez in the ensuing contest.

Fernandez, the 19-year-old from Montreal, wound up going all the way to the quarter-finals, where she lost to 59th-ranked Italian Martina Trevisan.

Soon after, it was revealed Fernandez was dealing with a foot injury. Bruneau, who also works with Fernandez through Tennis Canada and recently spent time with her at the Billie Jean King Cup, said she would miss all of grass season.

He said the aim is for Fernandez to be ready to return for the National Bank Open in Toronto which begins Aug. 5.

He also revealed that the Canadian was dealing with a "really, really bad cold, something like a flu virus" during both the Italian and Madrid Opens. She failed to move beyond the second round in either tournament.

If everything goes as planned, Fernandez should have a solid amount of runway ahead of the U.S.

And the stage could be set for more Canadian magic at Flushing Meadows.

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