July 21, 2024

Open Court


Exclusive: Heralded fitness coach Sillah joins Team Bianca



Bianca Andreescu has taken the next step in her comeback from a torn meniscus.

According to our boots on the ground in South Florida, the 20-year-old Canadian has added well-known high-performance fitness coach Abdul Sillah to the team.

The two are beginning work this week, as Andreescu arrived at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton to prepare for next week’s Miami Open.

But these types of moves are always fascinating, because Andreescu and his former charge Naomi Osaka are expected to be fierce rivals for the next decade.

Osaka and Sillah parted ways a year ago – somewhat under the radar because of the pandemic shutdown, and the fact that she didn’t play after the US Open. She is now trained by Yutaka Nakamura.

But one thing is certain: Sillah’s credentials are impeccable.

And he’s also known as an extraordinary motivator – which is a quality most competitive athletes can never have too much of.

Born in Sierra Leone before his family moved to the San Jose, Ca. area when he was nine, Sillah has worked with the best in the business of women’s tennis.

Some 15 years ago, he trained Serena Williams. Then, in 2016, he began working with American Sloane Stephens as she recovered from a foot injury.

Three years with Osaka for Sillah

From Feb. 2018 until the pandemic shutdown last year, Sillah worked with three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka.

Weeks after joining the team, Osaka won Indian Wells. And she has barely looked back.

But now, it appears, that relationship is over after more than three years. And Sillah is onto a new challenge with Andreescu.

During the years that Tennis Canada was underwriting most of her expenses, the federation supplied a number of physical trainers for her, all competent people.

But when you are looking for solutions to an issue, often the first call is to … different people.

An injury-plagued career

As we saw in 2019, whenever Andreescu is healthy, she performs.

After winning Indian Wells in March, the Canadian barely played through the spring and summer. She returned at the Rogers Cup in Toronto – and won it. Then she won the US Open.

Andreescu won Indian Wells in 2019, then reached the fourth round in Miami before retiring with a shoulder issue. She returns to Miami next week.

But a month later, a knee injury suffered at the WTA Tour finals in Shenzhen stretched into a 15-month stretch off the court that included the pandemic shutdown.

She finally returned at the Australian Open last month.

Out of the Middle East swing

Andreescu cited a leg injury as the reason she decided not to play Doha and Dubai the last few weeks.

But more than anything, she had been away from home for five months. And it was time to return to the family, disconnect a little and process the messages her body was sending in Melbourne.

Team Bianca, seen here on John Cain Arena in Melbourne last month, has a new member.

Andreescu had plenty of match play there, notably in the WTA Tour event held at Melbourne Park the second week of the event.

She went through a match in which she cramped and she had a good dose of long, marathon encounters.

But the injuries have been a recurring theme since her junior days.

So the addition of such an experienced, well-known coach at the elite level feels like a positive step in trying to address the injury issue, and take steps to minimize her time off the court.

We’ll see what Sillah can bring to the table.

We’ll see how it plays out in Miami.

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