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Sports Bianca Andreescu reveals she finally heard from Drake as she returns to Canada

U.S. Open winner Bianca Andreescu reads out a message sent to her from the rapper Drake, during a press conference at the Aviva Centre on Sept. 11, 2019.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A jam-packed welcome-home news conference for Bianca Andreescu had just ended on Wednesday, when the 19-year-old tennis star dropped one more savoury nugget on the crowd before leaving the room.

Unprompted, she shared that Drake had contacted her – the latest in a stream of mind-blowing happenings for the Canadian since she won the U.S. Open on Saturday. During her flurry of appearances on big U.S. TV shows over the past two days, Andreescu told Jimmy Fallon that she had yet to hear from the Toronto rapper. And now, boom.

“Drake messaged me. I’m actually having a conversation with him,” the excited teen said, whipping out her phone to read the message aloud to reporters in Toronto. “He’s like, ‘Here I am! :) Congrats. We are all so proud of you. I’ve been liking every post with you in it... LOL. I thought you’d see!’ ”

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Andreescu was home, fresh off a whirlwind media blitz in New York with the U.S. Open trophy, the prize for her straight-sets victory over Serena Williams, which made her Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion.

“I don’t even know what to reply to that,” Andreescu said, grinning at her phone and giggling over a suggestion that Drake would know she received it and would be awaiting her response. “It’s going to take me a while!”

The teen, who was raised in Mississauga and resides now in Thornhill, spoke to reporters on Wednesday at Tennis Canada’s Toronto headquarters. A swarm of photographers steadied their cameras on the door before she walked through it, ready to capture her entrance – much the way they do when a major star athlete or coach is introduced to a new team. Their cameras shuttered wildly when the door swung open.

A relaxed Bianca Andreescu spoke to the media in Toronto Wednesday morning, and reflected on the fame that has arrived on the heels of her U.S. Open win. She also shared a text message she’d received from rap star Drake honouring her success.

This was a glimpse of Canada getting to know a little more about the hard-slugging athlete they’ve only briefly seen in tennis gear on the court. Here she was in a black Nike dress and jacket with a red purse at her hip.

Tennis Canada staffers – all decked in red #SheTheNorth T-shirts – had just surprised the hometown kid with an impromptu reception. Then she breezed in and answered reporters’ questions for 30 minutes – on everything from her hopes to play for Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to her new goal of achieving a top-three ranking on the WTA Tour this year. She described a luxurious flight home from New York on a private jet, something for which she thanked Vinay Virmani of Uninterrupted, the all-digital sports-programming network founded by Drake and LeBron James. She revealed the song she was playing in her headset when she walked on court for matches in New York – Hot Girl Summer by Megan Thee Stallion.

“That’s definitely the song of the summer,” Andreescu said. “It’s a really catchy song, and it gets me pretty pumped up.”

The teen acknowledged her life has changed. She said she was still digesting her talk-show swing, which included appearances on The View, Good Morning America, Live with Kelly & Ryan and Fallon’s Tonight Show. She learned that she can no longer walk through Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall for a shopping trip without being recognized at every corner. She couldn’t believe how the #SheTheNorth hashtag – linked to the Toronto Raptors, her hometown basketball team – has caught fire.

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She said she’d been contacted by celebrities including Steve Nash, Justin Trudeau, Shania Twain and members of the Raptors.

“I wasn’t expecting any of this,” Andreescu said with a laugh. “But I can get used to it.”

Andreescu, who opened 2019 ranked No. 152 on the WTA Tour, is now the world No. 5 as a result of her win in New York – the apex of a jaw-dropping rookie season, which also included titles at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the Rogers Cup in Toronto, and a 45-4 record. She has made more than US$6-million this year and said although Tennis Canada will always support her, she wouldn’t need their financial help anymore.

She said she will hang out with friends briefly in Toronto and soon get back to work. She expects to play the Beijing Open next, kicking off the last week of September. She is on pace to qualify for the WTA Finals, a season-ending round-robin event in China for the top eight women in the Race to Shenzhen standings. That tournament will divvy out US$14-million in total prize money.

“Should Toronto hold a parade for you?” one reporter asked her – a nod to the Raptors’ massive championship celebration in June. The beaming tennis player smiled and laughed as she answered.

“Yeah, why not?”

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