May 25, 2020

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Bianca Andreescu to miss Australian Open

SYDNEY, Australia – It’s not a surprise, more of a disappointment.

But if there’s anything Bianca Andreescu learned during her breakout season in 2019, it’s that playing when you’re not fully fit does more harm than good.

As a result, the 19-year-old Canadian announced early Saturday morning in North America that she was withdrawing from the Australian Open.

Andreescu had already pulled out of an exhibition tournament in Hawaii, and this week’s WTA Tour event in Auckland.

The reason is her ongoing recovery from a knee injury suffered at the WTA Tour Finals in Shenzhen, China in October.

Andreescu news from Twitter

We’ll see if someone else gets to wear the outfit Nike had planned for Andreescu – mostly, a body suit.

After a run to the title at Indian Wells last March, Andreescu continued on to the Miami Open even though she was already struggling with a shoulder issue.

She won some matches. But in the end, she was forced to retire during her fourth-round match against Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

Andreescu missed the entire clay-court season and although she did return for the French Open, she pulled out of the tournament after a first-round win over Marie Bouzkova stretched out over two days.

After that, she missed all of the grass-court season, including Wimbledon, before returning in triumph to win the Rogers Cup.

So the lesson was hard-learned. And with so much ahead of her in 2020 – including a fair bit of pressure – Team Andreescu made the decision to begin her campaign at full speed.

Short of match play during the fall

The momentous victory at the US Open in September resulted in a withdrawal from her first planned tournament on the Asian swing in Wuhan.

Andreescu did play in Beijing at the Premier Mandatory event. She lost to Naomi Osaka in the quarterfinals.

And with the WTA Tour Finals also in China, but with a three-week break in between, Andreescu returned home to Canada.

After returning to Asia, she lost her first round-robin match in Shenzhen to Simona Halep. Already dealing with back issues, Andreescu injured her knee in the second match against Karolina Pliskova and retired after losing the first set.

She hasn’t played since.

That injury occurred 2 1/2 months ago. Andreescu had been due to travel to California for a two-week training block on Dec. 5 in preparation for Hawaii, Auckland – and Melbourne.

But her departure was delayed, which was the first warning sign. She did make it in the end. But there has been radio silence on her progress – especially on her social media.

Loss of ranking points

Andreescu earned 198 ranking points by reaching the Auckland final from the qualifying a year ago. She then qualified and reached the second round at the Australian Open, earning another 110 points.

You wouldn’t expect her to defend her title at the WTA 125-level tournament in Newport Beach, Calif. at the end of the month, either. So that’s another 160 points that will fall off her resumé.

The next events she has entered are Dubai (Premier) and Doha (Premier 5) in February.  

Long story short, her first block of points from 2019 will not be defended. But since she didn’t play the tournaments in the Middle East a year ago, it’s an instant opportunity to make up that ground.

That, of course, is assuming she’s healthy.

Either way, it’s hardly a dire scenario. Failing to defend the Auckland result dropped Andreescu from No. 5 to No. 6 in the rankings. The Australian Open points dropping off will likely only cost her two, perhaps three spots depending on what the players below her in the rankings do.

Gasparyan benefits

The withdrawal, which comes relatively early – many players who aren’t 100 per cent certain they can’t play wait until the very last minute – comes before the draw for next week’s qualifying.

Andreescu’s pullout means Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan – a player who has had plenty of injury woes of her own – will get straight into the main draw.