28 Apr 2017

ITF Pro Circuit meets... Bianca Andreescu

Text Interview

By Nick Fishpool

Photo: Arturo VelazquezBianca Andreescu (CAN)

Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, 16, recently won her first two singles titles of the year on the ITF Pro Circuit, sandwiching both wins between her first two appearances in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.

The sixteen-year-old has made a fine start to international team competition, compiling a 7-1 win-loss record for Canada in the Americas Zone Group I event in Mexico and in the World Group II play-off tie against Kazakhstan in Montreal last weekend, in which she clinched the decisive point. It’s been a remarkable rise, of late, for the promising teen.

Born in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, Andreescu recalls how she was "very fortunate to grow up in a great community" with many sporting teams and the regular Rogers Cup tennis tournament, where she met Simona Halep (one of her tennis idols, the other being Roger Federer) in 2016. 

"I spent time with her talking to local youth about tennis and life lessons," remembers Andreescu. "It was a memorable day for me."

Had she not embarked on a career as a professional, Andreescu would still have been in the sport, she says, "probably as a sports psychologist or something," although working with animals could well have been a consideration. When away from the court, Andreescu counts volunteering at pet shelters amongst her interests. "I love animals," she said. "I have five pets in total, four dogs and a cat."

Andreescu’s father used to play football and she played a number of sports herself, describing herself as "a very active child", but it wasn’t until she was six years old, living in Romania, that she picked up her first racket. She hasn’t looked back since.

Coached by former WTA world No. 3 and 1998 Wimbledon runner-up Nathalie Tauziat and Andre Labelle, with whom she’s been working alongside for three years, as a 14-year-old she reached the final, as a wild card entrant, at her first ITF Pro Circuit tournament. At a $25,000 event in Gatineau in July 2015, she lost the title match to Alexa Glatch. That same year she achieved a year-end junior ranking of No. 4 and has reached the singles semifinal of each of her last two Junior Grand Slams. She also won the doubles event in Australia earlier this year.

Her greatest tennis memory comes from her early days as a junior: "[It] was winning "Les Petite As" in France, as a 13-year-old," she reflected. "It was my first ‘Big’ win on a world stage and it gave me the motivation to want so much more from tennis and the confidence that I could do it."

Since her maiden appearance on the ITF Pro Circuit, Andreescu has gone on to appear in a further twelve singles main draw events.

"You have to work your way through the rankings, to enable yourself to get on the WTA Tour and the best way to do that, while working on your game, is to play on the ITF Circuit," she said.

"The best part of the ITF Pro Circuit is that it gives you the opportunity to play against top ranked professional players, from all over the world, at a very competitive level. You get a chance to work on all aspects of your game without the pressure of the WTA circuit."

Andreescu says that getting to travel the world is one of the best aspects of being a tennis player but it does have the downside of meaning time away from family and friends.  

"My parents are the greatest and they support me a lot, despite me being away all of the time. I couldn’t do it without their support."

Not that she hasn’t made friends away from home, of course, although that’s not easy whilst competing, she admits.

"I have more friends on the Junior Circuit as I haven’t played many ITF Pro Circuits yet," Andreescu said. "Each player is being consumed by their own experience though and it’s not always easy to make friends and interact."

As the first third of the year draws to a close, Andreescu has already made a rapid ascent, having won a Junior Grand Slam title, albeit in doubles, in Australia and currently occupying a career-high singles WTA ranking of No. 188.

Ending the year in the Top 150 in the WTA rankings and winning a Junior Grand Slam were her goals for 2017.

It might be time to set her sights rather higher.