In the latest instalment of Bianca Andreescu’s struggle to stay healthy enough to compete on the WTA Tour for an extended period, we give you … Strasbourg.
The 21-year-old’s career – even before her extraordinary win at the 2019 US Open – has always been pitted with injury woes.
But since that victory, it’s been virtually non-stop.
Add some bad luck into the mix – quarantined in Australia because her coach Sylvain Bruneau tested positive, and then contracting the virus herself in April – and it’s not a lot of fun these days.
An abdominal injury forced the Canadian to pull out of the Strasbourg tuneup event after her 6-1, 6-4 victory Tuesday over qualifier Maryna Zanevska of Belgium. She would have played wither Zhang Shuai or Sorana Cirstea in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
After her first-round victory over another qualifier, No. 279 Andrea Lazaro Garcia, Andreescu was as pumped as we’ve seen her lately. She was clearly thrilled just to be back on the court competing after missing the entire clay-court season.
And she was just as pleased with her execution in her first match on clay in two years – even if her opponent was more the type you’d find on the ITF circuit.
Two wins – and out for Andreescu
Andreescu answered a few questions after the win over Zanevska Tuesday – then dropped the bomb.
“I’m super happy with the one today but before anyone asks me anything else, I will be pulling out of my next match, because I did feel a little bit of an ab tear,” Andreescu said during a post-match Zoom conference. “Just a little bit, and I don’t want to push it at all for the French Open. I don’t want to take any risks. So yeah, I have to pull out. Nothing serious, though, like a little discomfort.”
Andreescu has often said her various niggles have been “nothing serious”. But rarely are physical issues “not serious”, as her recent history has shown.
She said that at first it was discomfort, which got more intense during the second set. Andreescu was down in that set before coming back to defeat Zanevska in straight sets.
It’s sadly familiar territory, who always harkens back to the arm injury in Miami in 2019. She pushed through to the fourth round, despite carrying the issue from her major triumph in Indian Wells the previous week. And then, but for one match in Paris, she was off the tour until the Rogers Cup in August.
She’ s determined to not repeat the same mistakes. And that was one reason she said she retired from the Miami Open final last month against Ashleigh Barty because of a foot issue that was already wrapped when she came on court, but was made worse when she tripped and fell during the match.
Until this week, that was the last time she competed. A positive test on arrival in Madrid earlier this month revealed she had contracted COVID-19. And after isolating as required for 10 days, Andreescu tested positive again before finally testing negative.
That spooked her enough to be concerned about the strict laws going into Italy for the Rome and Parma events. Had she somehow tested positive against, despite being the process of shedding the virus, she might have had to quarantine again.
And so, she withdrew from both, staking her clay-court preparation on this one event in Strasbourg, the week before the main event.
Déja vu all over again, it had been nearly two months since Andreescu had stepped on court.
Only to suffer an abdominal issue.
“I can’t really pinpoint exactly when it happened. But it was on a serve, obviously. Yeah, my goal right now is just to take care of it as much as I can. And, yeah, see how that goes,” she said.
Expectations for Paris
Because she’s a Grand Slam champion, and because the pandemic rankings have allowed her to remain in the top 10, there will be expectations on the Canadian’s shoulders coming into Paris.
And that, even though she has played precious little on the red clay as a pro. Her only match at Roland Garros came in 2019 – a two-day affair during which she finally outlasted Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.
That was the arm again – the Miami arm. And even though she had taken a break and rehabbed it, and told Open Court she had arrived in Paris pain-free after more than two months away – it still only lasted one match.
But after that win, Andreescu was a no-go for her scheduled second round against Sofia Kenin. She didn’t return until Rogers Cup in Toronto – which she won. And then the US Open – which she also won.
But for lightning to strike again as it did in 2019 is a lot to ask.
“It’s part of any athlete’s career. There’s always going to be some little things here and there that you just have to be cautious. Sometimes take care of them as much as you can, strengthen, all that stuff that all goes together. And just learning from past mistakes,” she said. “Like now I’m much better at scheduling tournaments and scheduling my training, etc, all of that, because I think that’s very important. And then just getting better in the gym, on the court, with different exercises and all of that.
“Initially, it’s always disappointing, but I try my best to look at the best in every situation I work a lot mentally. And just hope for the best,” she added.