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Emboldened Andreescu hopes Wimbledon is turning point

Bianca Andreescu Bianca Andreescu - The Canadian Press

Despite a heartbreaking loss in the third round, Bianca Andreescu leaves Wimbledon full of optimism. 

"I'm very proud of myself," she said. "Obviously it's upsetting, but I'm definitely proud."

The 23-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., performed well in her Centre Court debut at the All England Club, but fell 6-3, 3-6, 4-6 in a tight match with 2022 finalist Ons Jabeur on Saturday.

"Ons is a great player and she's been in those moments many, many times recently," Andreescu said. "I haven't been. So, the way I dealt with everything, from start to finish, was really good." 

Andreescu came out firing, showing flashes of the game that carried her to titles at Indian Wells, Toronto, and the US Open in 2019. She rose to No. 4 in the world before dealing with a series of injuries and taking a break from the tour to address her mental health.

"Bianca's back," ESPN analyst Chris Evert declared. "She's hitting the ball. She's moving well. She looks happy and she was right in there with Jabeur, who is No. 6 in the world. I was just so happy to see her healthy, but also with that touch, the variety and the power."

Andreescu, who arrived in London ranked No. 50, smiled when informed of Evert's comment. So, does she feel like she's back?

"In a way, for sure," Andreescu said. "Stepping on that court, I really felt like I belonged there. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be, and I was just feeling my shots. I was staying very positive. My energy was great."

This was Andreescu's fourth Wimbledon in the main draw and the first time she advanced past the second round. She had not played on any of the bigger courts until Saturday. 

"When you're that close, it's so hard to deal with," she said, "but having an opportunity to play on Centre Court is everything to me. Chills when I walked on. I pictured playing on that court since I was a little kid, and being able to actually experience it, it's incredible."

Andreescu went up a break early in the third set, but Jabeur broke right back before a rain delay forced the roof to be closed. Shortly after the match resumed, Andreescu played a loose game on serve at 4-4 and was broken. Jabeur served out the match the next game. 

"The difference was probably Ons, the last couple years, has played more, won more, and had maybe a little more belief in the end," Evert said. "It will take a little while for Bianca to get fully back to where she was in 2019, but all the signs are there." 

In the second round, Andreescu rallied from 2-5 down in the final set to upset No. 26 seed Anhelina Kalinina.

"It really brought back good memories from 2019," she said. "I remember being down a lot in that year and coming back and fighting my way through."

"Andreescu has gained back some of the game that got her to the top of the world," said ESPN analyst Pam Shriver. "I think her belief is growing. Not quite there yet, but I feel like Andreescu leaves Wimbledon with more confidence than when she got here."  

It's been a slow climb back for Andreescu, who reunited with her old junior coach, Christophe Lambert, this season in an attempt to get back to her roots. 

"Bianca, as a young player, had amazing abilities to read what the other player was doing and she was not a robot," Lambert said. "I feel she became a little bit of a robot. Like, she wanted to have certainty. 'If I receive the ball here, I need to play there,' and that's good when you want to get confidence, but she has the ability inside of her where she can read what the opponent is doing and have the right answer. If she's not physically 100 per cent it might be more difficult. If she's not mentally 100 per cent it may be more difficult, but she's got this gift. She needs to show it a little bit more and she will."

Health remains a No. 1 priority. Andreescu made a run to the fourth round at the Miami Open earlier this season, but an ankle injury forced her to retire from a match against Ekaterina Alexandrova. She fell during a match in Berlin last month, which led to pain in her left wrist and compromised her grass-court season. 

It's been hard to build momentum. 

"We've resolved a lot of things," Lambert assured. "Now, she needs to put more hours on the court. When you're injured you can't go 100 per cent, so you're always a bit afraid, and if we can get the hours on the court, it will give her more confidence."

Andreescu played three-set matches on three straight days at Wimbledon and came through that feeling better than expected.  

"I feel very, very strong physically and mentally," she said.  

Andreescu is up six spots to No. 44 in the live rankings and pushing towards seeded status at the US Open. Her best results have come on hard courts, so the outlook is promising as the tour moves back to that surface. 

Maybe this is a turning point for me," Andreescu said. "I'm really hoping it is."