Four months after returning to action from an extended break, Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu says her confidence is peaking heading into the final Grand Slam of the season.
The Mississauga, Ont., native enters this year's U.S. Open, where she won her lone career Grand Slam in 2019, after a short but successful stay at the recent National Bank Open.
"I know that I can beat any player on tour right now," Andreescu said ahead of the tournament's main draw, which begins Monday in New York. "I just really have to set my mind to it and just be in the right headspace to be honest. Like, I really believe in myself, in my capabilities. My biggest challenge is definitely myself right now.
"I definitely feel more confident right now than I have this whole year, which is so awesome for me to say because last year I was struggling a lot with that. So, coming into this hardcourt swing, I'm feeling so much better."
The 22-year-old Andreescu entered the National Bank Open in Toronto, an event she also won in 2019, having recovered from lower back pain she dealt with at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif.
Although her back didn't give her problems in Toronto, the need for recovery time cut into Andreescu's preparation. Then she ran into a different issue in her first-round win over then-No. 9 Daria Kasatkina.
In the 2 1/2 hour two-set win, Andreescu said “she was seeing double” during the tiebreaker in the first round and “felt really dizzy.” She was able to push through and said she hoped to build on her perseverance.
After following with a win over France's Alize Cornet, Andreescu eventually fell to China’s Zheng Qinwen in the third round.
“When you play higher ranked players and you do well against them, considering my ranking right now, (it) definitely helps," said Andreescu, who is currently ranked 50th in the world. “I mean, Daria Kasatkina, she just came off a win (in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic) and she had a lot of momentum coming into (the) tournament. So, clinching that with everything I was going through during the match just showed me where my level is at right now and what I can accomplish.
“Even like my matches against Alize too. I lost to her twice and that was the third time we played, so it was kind of nice to kind of like get my revenge in a way. And obviously, my opponent after that, she played really well. I clinched that second, set so it just shows where my fighting spirit’s at and I'm very happy with it.”
With her back pain behind her, Andreescu has her eyes set on claiming her second Grand Slam.
“I definitely want to win the tournament, no questions asked. Every tournament I go into, I want to win it,” she said. “But there's obviously a process that goes before that, and that's me enjoying myself out there. Just giving 100 per cent, preparing in the best way that I can and just fighting until the end and never giving up. Those are like the main things for me and staying healthy.”
Andreescu has made strides throughout the season, rising 71 spots in the rankings since her season debut at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in April. That was her first tournament since she announced in December 2021 that she was taking a break from the sport to work on her mental and physical well-being.
She will open the main draw against world No. 111 Harmony Tan on Monday. Andreescu could face Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia, a finalist earlier this month at the National Bank Open, in the second round.
Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., and Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino will also compete in the women's main draw.
Fernandez was a finalist in the 2021 U.S. Open, falling to Toronto-born Emma Raducanu, of Britain. The 19-year-old opens against France's Oceane Dodin. Marino will take on Poland's Magdalena Frech in her first-round match.
On the men’s side, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov will be the lone Canadians after Vasek Pospisil fell in his second-round qualifying match on Thursday to Andreas Seppi.
Auger-Aliassime, who is slated to face a qualifier yet to be determined, is the second-highest seed in his quarter at No. 6 behind world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The two could meet in the fourth round.
Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., seeded 19th, opens against Switzerland's Marc-Andrea Huesler and could face ninth seed Andrey Rublev in the third round.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2022.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press