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Andreescu's comeback continues at site of her 2019 Canadian Open title

TORONTO — Bianca Andreescu says she is returning to Toronto's Sobeys Stadium with confidence as she gets set to continue her comeback at the upcoming National Bank Open.
Bianca Andreescu attends a news conference in Toronto on Thursday July 14, 2022, ahead of the National Bank Open tennis tournament. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

TORONTO — Bianca Andreescu says she is returning to Toronto's Sobeys Stadium with confidence as she gets set to continue her comeback at the upcoming National Bank Open.

"I definitely feel more confident, than for instance, if I came back last year, in Toronto especially. Because it is different playing in Montreal and Toronto," Andreescu said Thursday at a Tennis Canada media conference to announce the player list for the WTA 1000 tournament. "Toronto, I feel like, it’s just the memories that I have here."

It's been a long road for the Mississauga, Ont., native since she was last one of the dominant players on the tennis scene, but Andreescu feels she will be in a position to perform at her best when the tournament takes place Aug. 5-14.

“I literally grew up on these courts so maybe I put more pressure on myself because I really want to do well here in Toronto," she said. "But I do feel good physically, mentally, and my whole approach to everything is just better. I do feel like I can do really well in this tournament."

The 22-year-old won the event in 2019, during a breakout year where she jumped to as high as No. 4 in the world rankings, having also won the U.S. Open, among other tournaments.

Just months after, she took a 15-month layoff due to a left knee injury. After a bout with COVID-19 in 2021, Andreescu opted to take a “mental break” from tennis late last year.

“Last year was super, super hard for me but I learned a lot about myself,” said Andreescu. "I do feel better in my own skin and it definitely wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t go through what I went through the last couple of years.

"Even with injuries, it was super hard being away from the sport but it was definitely worth it because of how I’m feeling now."

Prior to a recent second-round exit from Wimbledon, she made it to the Bad Homburg Open final before falling to France’s Caroline Garcia. It was the furthest she had made it in a tournament since the 2021 Miami Open, where she fell to then-world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty.

Currently sitting at 51st in the world, Andreescu was in a far lighter mood as she looks forward to being able to compete in front of family and friends after last year’s tournament was held in Montreal.

“I’m very, very excited. The wait has been way too long and I’m basically coming in as defending champ in a way, which is kind of weird because it’s been three years,” said Andreescu. “I’m definitely looking forward to it and I can’t wait for my family and my friends to come watch me play.”

Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., ranked No. 14 in the world, is also on the entry on list.

Competition will be stiff for both Andreescu and Fernandez, a finalist at last year’s U.S. Open, as 41 of the top-43 players on the WTA circuit will be taking part in the event.

Fernandez is still recovering from a right foot injury sustained at the French Open.

The group is highlighted by world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who recently had a 37-match win streak come to an end, Naomi Osaka, and 2021 U.S. Open champion and Toronto-born Emma Raducanu.

Serena Williams, who Andreescu defeated to win the U.S. Open three years ago, will also be competing.

The tournament will be held at full capacity for the first time since 2019 after being cancelled in 2020 and held with restrictions in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The men’s tournament will be held in Montreal, where Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime will eye a potential victory on home soil.

The men's draw will also feature Daniil Medvedev of Russia, the top ranked player in the world, along with No. 2 ranked Alexander Zverev of Gemany and the third-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain.

Russian and Belarusian players, who were banned from playing at Wimbledon in response to the invasion of Ukraine, will be allowed to participate in the National Bank Open, as Tennis Canada had said in a statement in April.

Nadal, who has 22 Grand Slam men's singles titles to his credit, is a five-time winner at the Canadian event.

During the media conference, Tennis Canada also announced the launch of its new initiative, Mental Timeout, in support of mental health and well-being of tennis players on all levels.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press