Lily Rochon beamed as she leaned in for a selfie with tennis superstar Bianca Andreescu.
The 10-year-old met her idol at a rally on Sunday in Mississauga for the recently crowned U.S. Open champion. Lily and a group of other young tennis players from the Ontario Racquet Club – where Andreescu began her career – helped cheer her on.
“It feels kind of wild that I got a picture with her,” said Lily, whose coach once trained Andreescu.
Despite light rain, an estimated 10,000 people came out for a chance to glimpse Andreescu, who was born in Mississauga, west of Toronto, at the “She The North” rally in Celebration Square.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie presented Andreescu with a key to the city and unveiled a street sign for Andreescu Way.
“Bianca Andreescu, you are our hometown girl, but you are Canada’s champion,” Crombie said.
Andreescu, 19, said: “This is crazy. I never thought I would have my own parade, let alone the key to the city and a street named after me.”
Andreescu became Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion after beating tennis great Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final on Sept. 7 in New York.
A host of dignitaries attended the rally, including Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory, who said he had proclaimed Monday Bianca Andreescu Day in the city. Ontario Premier Doug Ford was absent, but Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, attended in his place.
Despite being feted as a hometown hero at the rally, Andreescu now lives in Thornhill, just north of Toronto. Andreescu was raised partly in her parents’ native Romania, where she discovered her love for tennis, before returning to Canada to pursue the sport more seriously. Her parents, Maria and Nicu, attended the event along with their daughter’s toy poodle, Coco.
Before joining the dignitaries on the stage, Andreescu walked over to a riser close to the crowd and waved a Canadian flag as confetti rained down. Among the throng was a group of Romanian Canadians carrying Romanian flags and another fan with a large painting of the tennis star. Andreescu gave high-fives to Lily and the other young tennis players, who waved signs saying “Hometown Proud,” “Queen B” and “#SheTheNorth.”
Andreescu told the crowd her goals for the day were not to trip in her stilettos and not to mess up her speech.
“I am a proud Canadian. I am proud to represent this amazing country all over the world,” she said. “This is only the beginning.”
Andreescu began playing tennis when she was seven and started at the Ontario Racquet Club a year later, where she trained for about a year before joining Tennis Canada’s program.
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. Her jaw-dropping rookie season also included titles at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the Rogers Cup in Toronto, as well as a 45-4 record.