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IAN SHANTZ: Can Rogers Cup champion Andreescu make life even more Grand?

Andreescu - Reuters

Throughout the biggest week of her young tennis career, Bianca Andreescu often kept it succinct. Certainly not on the court, save for that shockingly short final, but in her reactions.

“Of course,” the-19-year-old sigh-grinned during the downtown Toronto draw ceremony when she learned she would be facing fellow Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in the opening round of her hometown tournament, the Rogers Cup.

“Come on!” Andreescu would roar whenever she closed out a game with a critical hold or momentum-swinging break.

Here’s another economic thought: Canadian champion.

The Mississauga teen slayed giant after giant throughout her mesmerizing journey on Centre Court at the Aviva Centre in Toronto, often running on fumes and always driven by the motivating factor that she was at home — in the same stadium she nurtured her game as part of the country’s national development program — with a chance to make history.

Andreescu did that, surviving more than 11 hours on court through five matches, plus Sunday’s retirement-shortened 19-minute affair against 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, to become the first Canadian to win on home soil in 50 years.

Having lived in the rankings’ nether regions as world No. 209 just 12 months ago, Andreescu rose all the way to world No. 14 on Monday, by far her highest career ranking and a coronation following months of uncertainty due to injury.

It leaves us with two words of our own: What’s next?

For one, the outside expectations that weren’t placed on the rising superstar prior to a few months ago, or even a week ago, now exist in perpetuity, or at least for as long as the Canadian succeeds on the WTA Tour.

Andreescu has won two tour-level tournaments this season, her victory at Indian Wells, Calif., falling one step below the Grand Slams, and Toronto being a big-points Premier 5 level event that historically draws the game’s best players.

She is riding a 17-match win streak not counting retirements and has run her record to 27-4, good for the best winning percentage of any player in 2019 at .871.

When healthy, Andreescu has been virtually unstoppable.

But they say the Grand Slams are what separate the really great from the rather good, so while Andreescu has achieved more in the past calendar year than any Canadian, on the men’s or women’s side, her major moment awaits.

After making her main-draw Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open to start the season, losing a three-setter in the Round of 64, Andreescu was forced to retire prior to her second match at the French Open and later withdrew from Wimbledon. Both absences were courtesy of her felled right shoulder, which has forced her to miss a combined four-plus months this season. She had only played one match in 134 days prior to her Toronto comeback.

Andreescu, who battled through a groin issue on her way to victory in Toronto, wisely removed herself from this week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, saying in her announcement late Sunday: “I really have to listen to my body right now. This week hasn’t been easy on it, so I’m going to listen to it.”

Presuming some R&R does the trick, there is no reason to doubt Andreescu doesn’t have what it takes to go where two Canadians, Bouchard and ace-master Milos Raonic, have gone before her: To the final of a Grand Slam.

In fact, many will argue Andreescu, a two-time junior doubles champion having won in Melbourne and Paris in 2017, possesses a far more diverse and complex game than the aforementioned Canucks. Her combination of extraordinary drop shots, powerful forehands and crafty slices regularly left upper-echelon opponents dizzy on the grounds of York University.

She will get her chance to take yet another step forward in a few short weeks when the world’s best gather at Flushing Meadows, N.Y. for the seasons’s final major, the U.S. Open.

“This has definitely got my confidence level up there,” Andreescu said what her Toronto performance means to the rest of the summer hardcourt swing. “Being able to deal with all the pressure and all the expectations from everyone I’m just real proud with how I dealt with everything. And hopefully this win can give me momentum into the U.S. Open.”

Andreescu has mowed over seven top-10 opponents this season, including a pair of top-five players in Toronto, and has never lost to anyone ranked 10th or better.

Momentum is indeed on her side.

A few more match victories and the Canadian, who is currently situated among the top eight to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in China in October, could find herself in that top-10 category, closing in on the world No. 5 spot Bouchard reached at the height of her career in 2014.

“You are a beast. You’re going to bounce back,” Andreescu told 37-year-old Williams during an emotional on-court embrace moments after the legend bowed out with a back injury on Sunday.

The Canadian has proven to be quite the beast herself this season. And she’s bounced back nicely from her own injury issues. The only question that remains is whether she can put a cherry on top of her magnificent 2019 in New York.

Andreescu leads a parade of young Canadians headed to the Big Apple, including 19-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime and 20-year-old Denis Shapovalov. It says here she stands the best chance among the three. To put it a bit more succinctly: Look out, world.

ishantz@postmedia.com

twitter.com/IanShantz

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