September 26, 2023

Open Court



ROLAND GARROS – Coaches are hired to be fired.

All good things come to an end.

Insert your cliché here.

Even coaches who helped bring a player from early career struggles to a Grand Slam title and a top-five ranking at age 19 are not forever.

And so, the coach-player relationship between 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and fellow Canadian Sylvain Bruneau is over.

The world No. 7, who turns 21 in a week, will arrive on the grass with a new coach.

Bruneau and Andreescu during a practice on Court Simonne-Mathieu, ahead of her first-round exit at Roland Garros last week.

Shortly after Open Court reached out to Andreescu and her representatives for confirmation after hearing about the news, Andreescu issued this statement on Instagram.

(Plus ça change …)

As always in (nearly all) of these things, it was a *mutual split borne out of mutual respect and love*. Or so go the official pronouncements.

In real life, it very rarely is. As with other relationships, one usually wants to break up, the other wants to stay together.

And so it goes.

This is a pretty big move. But it’s not a shock move, as Bruneau’s return to a full-time commitment to Tennis Canada made it inevitable.

And more Andreescu news for a Tuesday

As well, Open Court has also learned that Andreescu has made another major change to her team, by signing with a new agency.

That story is here.

The two events are not necessarily completely unrelated to one another.

After 3 1/2 years, change in the air

Bruneau took over as Andreescu’s full-time coach in the winter of 2017-18, when her early steps as a pro were truly a matter of one step forward, another step back.

She had dealt with a back injury. And she had strayed away from the fundamentals of her game, which involved using every part of the court and every shot in the book.

The Quebecer Bruneau had long been around Andreescu, of course, in the course of his responsibilities with Tennis Canada.

On their first trip together, to Asia to play some lower-level ITFs, something clicked back in.

And, of course, Bruneau will long be remembered for an impressive pep talk during the Indian Wells event in 2019, which turned things around and led to Andreescu’s first big title.

Bruneau juggling two jobs

Bruneau, who was the longtime Canadian Fed Cup (now Billie Jean King Cup) captain and also the head of the women’s program for Tennis Canada, had to give up a rather secure job for the uncertainty of coaching a top female player.

He kept his hand in, supervising some training camps with the younger Canadian girls. And on some level it worked well on both sides, with Tennis Canada dealing with a huge financial crunch after the cancellation of the Rogers Cup events in 2020.

The top players – Félix Auger-Aliassime and Andreescu among then – took over the financial responsibility for their own teams.

But Tennis Canada recently announced a reorganization of its player development in the wake of department head Louis Borfiga’s return to France. And with that, Bruneau was slated to return to the fold and take back his former duties – and then some.

His new title is “Head of Women’s Pro and Transition Tennis”. And that’s a full-time gig.

Essentially, the federation put Bruneau in a position of having to make a choice: security against uncertainty.

The security is working for a federation (acts of Gods excepted). The uncertainty is coaching a top-level player knowing you were hired to be fired.

Official quote from Bruneau

Bruneau did not respond to a request for confirmation of this news early this morning, long before Andreescu’s post.

His “official quote” came via Tennis Canada shortly after lunch, Canada time, with the caveat that he wouldn’t be commenting further or doing interviews.

“It has been an absolutely incredible journey to work with Bianca. As her coach, I experienced unbelievable moments and emotions and it is something that I will always cherish. Bianca is not only an exceptional athlete, but she’s also an exceptional person. It was really a privilege to train her for the last few years. I wish her and her family all the very best for the future. I know that she will be extremely successful and that her best tennis is still ahead of her.” 
“While this great chapter of my life and career is coming to a close, I’m happy that I will now be able to spend more time with my family moving forward. I’m also excited for what’s next at Tennis Canada, as I will get additional time to help our team bring Canadian tennis to the next level.” 

A long injury absence cuts short the momentum

Andreescu had been out nearly 16 months when she arrived in Australia in January for her return to action – her first since suffering a meniscus injury in Oct. 2019.

She had been out with injuries regularly during her career.

Notably, in 2019, she dealt with a shoulder and forearm problem that kept her away from the courts between Miami in March and the Rogers Cup in August.

The one exception was a two-day, first-round win over Marie Bouzkova at Roland Garros in 2019.

She withdrew before her second-round match against Sofia Kenin.

Andreescu didn’t return until the Rogers Cup in August, missing the entire grass-court season. And she won it. And then she won the US Open.

Up-and-down return in 2021 for Andreescu

Finally back in January, Andreescu suffered a setback when she had to do full-quarantine in Australia along with everyone on her flight from Abu Dhabi. Bruneau’s positive COVID-19 test on arrival was the reason.

She withdrew from the tuneup event, citing lack of match play. And her first-round match against Mihaela Buzarnescu in the main event was her first since Oct. 2019.

She won it, before losing to Hsieh Su-Wei in the second round.

She reached the semifinals of a WTA event on site at Melbourne Park during the second week of the big tournament.

After six weeks away, Andreescu returned to reach the Miami Open final – only to retire in the second set against Ashleigh Barty when she aggravated a foot problem. Andreescu had survived four three-set matches earlier in the tournament.

And then, she contracted COVID-19 in Miami, testing positive on arrival in Madrid.

Andreescu missed Madrid. And then, out of concern that she might test positive in Italy while shedding the virus and be forced to quarantine again, she pulled out of both Rome and a 250 tournament in Parma.

Two matches in Strasbourg – then out

Andreescu finally was able to do a little Roland Garros prep at the tournament the week before, in Strasbourg.

After beating a pair of qualifiers in straight sets, she withdrew from the event, citing an abdominal injury.

First-round exit in Paris

Even if Tamara Zidansek has more than proven her quality by reaching the women’s singles semifinals in Paris, Andreescu was still expected to get through their first-round meeting last week.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

Zidansek prevailed in a marathon – 6-7 (1), 7-6 (2), 9-7.

So the Canadian was out in the first round, with two weeks to mull over the defeat, and what her next moves were going to be.

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