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Sports Bianca Andreescu ‘getting more and more confident’ playing against the world’s best

Bianca Andreescu, of Canada, smiles as she hugs her trophy after defeating Angelique Kerber, of Germany, in the women's final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Indian Wells, Calif.

Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press

Fresh off her life-changing victory in Indian Wells, Calif., Bianca Andreescu has landed in Miami, ready to face her next test.

The 18-year-old Canadian tennis star has had little time to celebrate or even catch her breath after a Cinderella run in California that ended on Sunday with her first title on the WTA Tour. She’s scheduled to play at the Miami Open on Wednesday, another gruelling mandatory event with the world’s best players competing.

Andreescu made history at the BNP Paribas Open. She became the first Canadian to win a Premier Mandatory tournament, the youngest champion in Indian Wells since Serena Williams in 1999 and the first female wild card to earn the title.

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Indian Wells held a small reception after the match, with non-alcoholic Champagne arranged for the teen champ. The title came with a US$1.35-million prize, yet Andreescu celebrated with fast food, making sure coach Sylvain Bruneau experienced his first visit to an In-N-Out Burger.

But it wasn’t the quick burger stop they expected. Instead, it was a glimpse of how her life has changed. Once inside the restaurant a few kilometres from the tennis venue, she was surrounded by people requesting photos with her.

Andreescu and Bruneau drove more than two hours Sunday night to a physiotherapist in Irvine, Calif., who has been helping her in recent months as she adjusts to the increased physical demands of regular play on the WTA Tour after playing on the ITF circuit. A long session that lasted well past midnight tended to the full-body toll of the seven matches she endured at Indian Wells, and the hefty hours accumulated on court as she’s played to a 28-3 record already in 2019.

The 5-foot-7 Canadian was visibly running on fumes at the end of Sunday’s final, but says she’s feeling healthy and rested in Miami, despite having flown in late Monday night. Her parents joined her there.

“I’ve never been in a situation like that before, never in the final of a premier event. I think it was all of the emotion and the tension in my body that caused me to get even more tired than I usually would have,” Andreescu said on a Tuesday conference call with reporters. “I learned that even when my body is running out, I can push through it with my mind and that’s what I did in the semi-finals and the final match. I’m capable of putting up wins against high-level players.”

She received congratulations from all over the world, from tennis legends Billie Jean King and Rod Laver, to Romanian Olympic gymnastics icon Nadia Comaneci, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Toronto Raptors. Her agent has been bombarded with requests and fan e-mails for her, but has shown Andreesu only a small selection for now.

“We don’t want this to be the top thing of her career, because we believe the best is yet to come,” said her agent, Jonathan Dasnières de Veigy, who has also joined her in Miami. “We need to keep her feet on the ground.”

The Canadian teen skyrocketed into the No. 24 spot in the WTA world rankings. She also tallied enough points to climb to No. 5 in the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, the leaderboard that eventually determines the top eight players who compete in China at the year-end WTA final in October.

The higher ranking she’s accumulated in 2019 is life-changing. If she can maintain it, the ranking earns her direct entrance to the main draws of tournaments, so she’ll no longer have to play in qualifiers.

She opens play in Miami against World No. 70 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania – the same player she beat in Round 1 at Indian Wells, in a three-setter with a gruelling first-set tiebreaker. It’s possible she could have a third-round rematch with her finals foe, World No. 4 Angelique Kerber of Germany.

Andreescu has been catching opponents off guard with her crafty style, loaded with variety and change of pace.

“But that’s not going to be the case any more. Players are going to know what she can do on the court and they’ll be prepared to see it,” Bruneau said. “We had a little bit of an advantage against those well-known players because we had seen their game more than they had seen Bianca’s. But that little edge will go away now and the dynamic is going to change.”

Andreescu said she hopes to take a break of two to three weeks at some point after Miami. She intends to play Canada’s Fed Cup tie in the Czech Republic in April but will re-evaluate other events on her schedule.

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“As I’m getting more experience, I’m getting more and more confident playing against these top-level players,” Andreescu said. “I’m definitely not star-struck any more.”

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