June 18, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

ROLAND GARROS – Bianca Andreescu didn’t want to know the identity of her second-round opponent.

(Psssst…. can you keep a secret from her? It will be No. 23 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia).

She just wanted to sleep blissfully Monday night after dispatching the maddening Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-5, 6-1, and savor her first match and her first win since last August. And then, she would start thinking about what’s next.

There was a lot to savour.

Here’s what it looked like.

After a few glitchy moments in the first set, Andreescu took everything Sorribes Tormo threw at her and threw it right back with interest: drop shots, moonballs and patience.

“I am putting in the work. So after freaking four months, I’d hope I’d see some improvement on the court. I know there were some some points during the match where it was a little bit off. But I mean, she plays very unconventionally. – she really likes to loop it, but it’s effective, honestly. It’s really effective,” Andreescu said. “But yeah, I just told myself, ‘keep moving forward, come to the net as much as I can. Good first serve, good return.’ And I think I did that.”

Moonballs GALORE!

Andreescu knew what to expect from Sorribes Tormo, a 27-year-old at home on clay who’s stocked her retirement fund on grinding out long, sometimes excruciating matches.

The Canadian returned the moonballs in kind when she had to. And when she found one she could jump on, she stepped in and took it early and looked to control the point.

Or she would move in and take one on the swing volley.

Overall, she handled it with just the right balance of patience and aggression. It goes without saying that this is not easy to do.

In retrospect, an optimal opener

Andreescu spoke about how, when she returned to play after the knee issue that scuttled the aftermath of her hugely successful 2019 season, she got caught up a little bit in trying to hit with the big hitters from the baseline.

This was something she also fell prey to in her later junior years. After coming onto the scene with the full toolkit she displayed during her finest career moments in 2019, she backed off and hugged the baseline for a couple of years and was sort of treading water a little bit.

Credit to former Tennis Canada coach Sylvain Bruneau for helping her to rediscover her true tennis identity. Most players who go against their inherent nature on the court, who try to be a player they are not at their core, end up underachieving simply because it’s so hard to keep it up.

It’s like an introvert going out to try to be an extrovert. That’s not who they are, and eventually they are revealed.

And once Andreescu got back to it, things clicked for her.

In Sorribes Tormo, she didn’t face a big hitter. And so, from her very first match back, she was able to pull out the full Monty of Andreescu tools, shake the rust off, and groove them a little.

“When I saw that matchup, I thought it was really good for me to be able to showcase all of that. Because if I play a harder hitter, then it’s hard to change the rhythm,” she said.

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New stick, randomly

It didn’t go unnoticed, even in a pre-tournament practice with her friend Yulia Putintseva, that Andreescu had made a racquet switch.

(Easy for Open Court to notice, as it’s the Open Court weapon of choice)

For years, she played with the Head Speed MP. But halfway through her pre-season, she randomly picked up the Extreme.

“I was like, ‘Okay, let’s try something new. Maybe I’ll like it.’ It was super, super random because I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve played with this racquet for so long. I’ve never really explored other options. I tried this green one, and I really like it,” she said. “I’ve noticed a lot of people actually play with it. I feel like you’re swinging at nothing, basically. It’s just the ball goes. It’s really, really good.”

Few visible signs of nerves

Andreescu told Open Court, during her pre-match media availability, that she couldn’t ever remember being this nervous after an injury break.

Here’s what else she said, in our piece for the Canadian Press.

For the most part, it didn’t show. For the most part, she looked eager and committed. And fit.

Player happy, fans happy – Coco oblivious

The Canadian was clearly happy to be in the winner’s circle again, to be in the thick of it and to bask in the appreciation of the fans.

Her parents Maria and Nicu were there, of course. As was the dog – of course.

She took selfies with everyone who asked. And even showed off the arm work she’s been doing in throwing a couple of valuable tournament towels into the crowd – hitting the top of the stands on Court 10 while throwing it backwards.

Next up is Kalinskaya

There was an interested spectator at Andreescu’s match on Monday: Patricia Tarabini, the longtime coach of Kalinskaya.

Andreescu and Kalinskaya have practiced together – notably, last year in Rome.

But they’ve never faced each other on the pro tour.

With the other remaining Canadians playing Wednesday, Andreescu (who is in the top half of the women’s draw) will play Thursday.

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