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Mark Masters

SPORTSCENTRE Reporter

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One year ago today, Bianca Andreescu made history at Indian Wells by becoming the first Canadian singles player to win a premier mandatory event, the highest level below the majors. 

"It was very, very special," recalled coach Sylvain Bruneau. "I believed she'd be winning a lot more of those, but that was the first one and I will always cherish that, and I will always remember that."

Bruneau was right. More big moments lay ahead like in August when the teenager ended a 50-year drought by becoming a homegrown winner at the Canadian Open. And, of course, at the US Open when she became the first Canadian to win a singles grand slam. 

Andreescu also earned an invite to the prestigious WTA Finals, reserved for the top eight players each season. It was there that she sustained a knee injury, one that has prevented her from playing a match so far in 2020.

With the tour now on hold, TSN got an update on Andreescu's status from Bruneau. The teenager is back home in Toronto after spending a week training at the Indian Wells venue in California. The veteran coach explained how Andreescu will embrace load management to prevent future injury issues and outlined their goals moving forward. 

The following is an edited transcript of the interview.  

How are you guys dealing with the coronavirus crisis? 

"I'm with my two kids and I'm staying home at the cottage. My wife is a pharmacist, so she's in Montreal and she's working and really busy. Bianca is in Toronto and she's also self-quarantining as well. I guess if you're in Florida right now you can do it in a very safe way where you go to a tennis court [outside] and keep hitting. It's a bit tougher here, because it's pretty much closed down everywhere, so we're giving her extra time to rest her knee. She wasn't ready to go for Indian Wells, so she's looking at it as extra time to get better. She's focusing on fitness as of now. So, she's not hitting."

Before the tour suspended events, was the plan for Bianca to return at the Miami Open next week? 

"We were hoping. It wasn't for sure that would have happened, but that was the plan. That's what we were working towards."

WTA Tour suspended until May

The WTA has announced that forthcoming tournaments in Stuttgart, Istanbul and Prague will not be held as scheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What has made this injury hard to overcome? 

"We've had some setbacks just because sometimes when you have an injury and you try to protect it and try to compensate, then you develop another little bit of an injury. So, she's had that and that's been an issue as well. You try to be careful and then you're not exactly doing the work she needs to and then she develops something else as well."

At any point did Bianca  consider surgery? 

"It was on the table at the start, because she saw a few doctors. She's working with Angel Cotorro who is [Rafael] Nadal's doctor, which is why we've been in Barcelona so much, since January basically for six weeks in total, and he suggested to go with the conservative method and not do surgery, so that's what we've done. But, yes, it was on the table, because some doctors said it could be an option, initially."

Bianca has experienced a lot of injury issues despite being young. Is this bad luck or are there issues that can be addressed? 

"We can look at it both ways. What happened in Shenzhen [at the WTA Finals] might be bad luck, I don't know. But, definitely, I feel she's played a lot of tennis, a lot of matches at an intensity she was not used to and probably her tennis level was a little bit ahead of her fitness level, so we're trying to correct that. You try to study all the time what you can do better and what you can do differently and improve things. She's had her share of injuries and she's only 19."

Are you looking at employing load management when it comes to her schedule? What changes are you contemplating? 

"All of that. And then she's got physio now on the road, she's got her fitness now on the road, so we're focused on her fitness level and making sure we can get her into peak form."

How is Bianca dealing with the inactivity this season? 

"She was very disappointed to miss all those tournaments. It's not easy. She wants to be on the court and competing and she's not. She's basically doing a lot of fitness and a bit of tennis. So, it's not been easy, but she's strong and she's got good will and she's able to look ahead and know there’s going to be better times and some big moments, and she's trying to be, as much as possible, be positive."

What goals have you guys set once the season gets going? 

"Last year was a great year [with] some great accomplishments, but we know that it's not always from one year to another that you get better and better and your results are always better. I mean, that's what you look for, [but] it's not always what happens. But, for sure, we want to be using 2019 as her first year, as her breakthrough and definitely keep going in 2020. When she finished the year, she was ranked top five, so when you're a competitor the way she is, you want to maintain or get better. When you've won a certain amount of tournaments, you also want to maintain or get better, that's for sure."

It's the one-year anniversary of the Indian Wells win. What do remember about that match against Angelique Kerber? 

"I remember that I thought it was very special when she made it to the final and I remember that I felt very competitive. She was there and she was one match away and I really wanted her to play well and do well and finish the streak on a high note. I remember she started the match really well. It got a little tougher – Kerber found her rhythm – and she got down in the third set, was down a break and, obviously, going on the court [for a consultation] and then how she was able to finish the match incredibly well. A lot of merit to her. It was very, very special, because I believe she'll be winning a lot more of those, but that was the first one and I will always cherish that, and I will always remember that."

On a personal level, what did it mean to you? 

" I was lucky and fortunate to be around Genie [Bouchard] sometimes, who had great results. I was part of her team, but was not the coach fully in charge, so with Bianca it was a different situation. It was a first for her and it was also a first for me. It was a first experience of that magnitude and it was very special."

What was the significance of the win for Canadian tennis? There were big moments before and after, but that was the biggest singles title ever won by a Canadian at that time. 

"It was the first and I think that was important. I think what Milos [Raonic] did, what Genie did, what Daniel Nestor did in doubles and now Felix [Auger-Aliassime] and Denis [Shapovalov], all of it made it possible for the others to do well. With Bianca, it was a little bit of that. It was another step at another level. Bianca was the first doing something just like Genie was the first doing something and Milos was the first doing something and it makes other people in Canada believe, 'Why not me?' I'm pretty sure it was helpful for Felix and Denis and I'm sure they will be helpful for Bianca and that's what we need. That's how I look at it. Everybody will help each other and push each other in a very positive way, and you see that in other countries and we need that in our country."

Leylah Annie Fernandez has added her name to the list of rising Canadian stars. She's still just 17, but has risen to No. 118 in the rankings after starting the year at 209. What has allowed her to have so much success in her first WTA season? 

"She is a mental giant. Not a tall player, just 5-foot-4, but she's big mentally. She's extremely competitive, she's very positive, she has a great, great attitude. Her work ethic in practice is second to none. Whenever she's on a tennis court it's to win a match or get better in practice so she's got that great asset. And she's smart on the court. She's lefty and she's crafty and she's quick, so she's got a lot of good things going for her. That win, for sure, against [No. 5 Belinda] Bencic [at the Fed Cup] was an eye-opener and a boost of confidence and she used that at the following events."