At the Australian Open, Bianca Andreescu Is Ousted in the Second Round

MELBOURNE, Australia — As Bianca Andreescu vaulted from No. 152 in the world to the United States Open champion throughout 2019, she seemed to be taking part in with a tennis angel on her shoulder.

And then luck left Andreescu, the 20-year-old Canadian, shortly after she lifted that U.S. Open trophy.

Andreescu sustained a torn meniscus that October. Then got here the coronavirus pandemic, which, mixed with the knee harm, saved her from competing for all of 2020. She educated by the fall and into the new yr to hit the floor operating upon touchdown in Australia. Then her coach examined optimistic for the virus shortly after he arrived on a flight from Abu Dhabi, sending Andreescu into a tough lockdown for 14 days due to their contact. She pulled out of an Australian Open warm-up match final week relatively than threat harm by doing an excessive amount of too quickly.

“It’s super easy to ask yourself: ‘Why, why, why? Or what is the reason?’” Andreescu stated just lately as her quarantine was winding down. “Some of these things you cannot control.”

No one embodied that uncertainty at the Australian Open more than Andreescu, who passed her first-round test on Monday, a three-set nail-biter against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.

There were moments when Andreescu created shots and found the unseen angles, and plenty of others when she looked overwhelmed by a player ranked 138th in the world. Wednesday’s match against Hsieh had far too many of the latter.

But coming to Australia, Andreescu had not played a match since October 2019. The inactivity would leave most players with little more than a puncher’s chance for success. Andreescu, though, had shown a freakish ability to shake off rust and play deep into tournaments. A back injury kept her out of competition for two months in the fall of 2018. When she came back she won two titles on the lower-tier I.T.F. circuit.

In 2019, an injury to her right shoulder largely sidelined her from April until August. She returned for the Rogers Cup in Toronto, one of the highest profile tournaments outside of the four majors, and won after Serena Williams retired from the final with back spasms four games into the match. Then Andreescu reeled off another seven consecutive wins and became the U.S. Open champion.

That is not normal. Angelique Kerber of Germany, the three-time Grand Slam winner, said that when injuries cause long layoffs, it can take months to find the motivation to get on court and go to your limit. “I think that’s the hardest challenge,” Kerber said.

Andreescu can burn hot. She breaks rackets sometimes in practice, though fewer than she used to. She said she cried Sunday night in anticipation of her first-round match here in Australia.

The first 48 hours after she learned that her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, had tested positive were tough to grapple with. As she and others on her team continued to test negative, Andreescu snapped back into preparation mode.

She did strength and fitness sessions on the stationary bicycle in her room with her trainer over Zoom. Her coach, who has remained healthy, put her through shadow hitting sessions, allowing her to work on her footwork. A devotee of visual imagery training, she spent hours imagining herself playing matches.

She watched her matches from 2019 and reliving those wins boosted her confidence. She also read — Charles Duhigg’s “Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity,” and Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100” — and played Call of Duty and NBA2K on her Xbox. She fiddled around with her new hobby, composing music.

She watched the 2020 U.S. Open and the French Open on television with a mix of hurt and hope. Not being on the court bothered her, but as she took in the action, she pictured herself in that moment again and it felt good.

After Monday’s difficult win, Andreescu sank into an ice bath and considered the silver lining of that uneasy duel. “Those matches are super good for me,” she said ahead of the second round. “It really shows that I can scramble when I really need to, or if there is some pressure I can dig my way through it somehow.”

That didn’t work out for Andreescu on Wednesday. More digging lies ahead.

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