By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 10, 2019.
It’s not just that Bianca Andreescu won a Grand Slam singles tennis title. Or that she was the first Canadian – man or woman – to do so.
It’s how she won and who she beat on Saturday to raise high the U.S. Open trophy that makes Andreescu’s story such a compelling one for so many Canadians.
There’s the how of the match itself, in which the Canadian teenager fearlessly stood toe-to-toe with the legendary Serena Williams, the best ever to play the game.
And there’s the years leading up to the championship match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Because even at just 19 years of age it’s already been a long road full of ups and downs.
Just a year ago, Andreescu was, as she put it, at home “sitting on my butt,” having been bounced from the U.S. Open in the qualifying rounds.
Back then few Canadians had heard of her but she had a plan and not getting out of the qualifiers wasn’t in it. Indeed, years earlier she had written herself a pretend cheque for winning the U.S. Open.
We can’t all write ourselves a multi-million-dollar cheque and actually have it come due (though we can imagine the scores of young athletes putting pen to paper now.) But, professional athlete or mere mortal, we can all learn a little something about planning for success and persevering through hardship to achieve it.
Tennis Canada did that when it saw Andreescu’s potential and provided special coaching when she was 14. And again in 2018, when it made Sylvain Bruneau her full-time coach when she was hovering around 200 in the world rankings.
And no one gave up – most especially Andreescu herself – when injuries threatened her breakout season.
The payoff: The spectacular win on America’s home court, no less, the outpouring of patriotic joy and support from far and wide. Front page newspaper coverage, congratulatory messages from the prime minister and the Toronto Raptors, who know a little something about creating public excitement. Landmarks in Toronto and Mississauga, where she’s from, lit up in honour and promises of more feting to come.
Certainly tennis will never reach the same public fevered pitch as the Raptors’ recent NBA championship. It’s an individual sport, after all, and two weeks in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., doesn’t create the same hype as months of effort to drag the NBA title north of the border for the first time.
But it definitely has a similar flavour. Canada against the world, and a continuation of the Canadian stereotype-busting that we all seem to like so much.
Canadians don’t want to be known as the polite people who turn up, just happy to be included. We’d like to win, whatever it is.
Yes, Andreescu did apologize for beating the crowd favourite but, as plenty of commentators have pointed out, it had a lot more edge than an old-school Canadian apology.
Canada as the confident underdog willing and able to take on the world and win. That, far more than just being polite, seems to be what Canadians are going for these days.
And the biggest hope of all, from sports to business to politics, is that a great Canadian win isn’t a one-off but part of a pattern.
There, too, her story fits. Given Andreescu’s complete tennis game and the incredible mental toughness she showed all season it isn’t hard to think she could do this again. And again.
“I’m really looking forward to what I can do in many years to come,” Andreescu said.
So, it seems, is the rest of Canada.
Editorial from The Toronto Star