Winning championships and medals away from our home and native land has always been admired by Canadians. From the Olympics to golf’s Masters Tournament, Canadians have always been attracted to winners. Especially those who have found success on the biggest stage in their sport. When Bianca Andreescu won the 2019 U.S. Open, it wasn’t a surprise to see the nation throw itself at the feet of the 19-year-old tennis star. Andreescu, a native of Mississauga, defeated living legend Serena Williams in straight sets 6–3 and 7–5. It was Andreescu’s second win over Williams after the latter bowed out of the Rogers Cup final in Toronto a month earlier. Gracious in the aftermath of what is now the biggest win in Tennis Canada history, Andreescu’s rise to fame is the explosion that both tennis and Canada needed.
Before Bianca, no Canadian had won a tennis major. The country has nurtured promising stars such as Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard, but injuries derailed their respective careers. Andreescu herself has suffered from physical setbacks that cost her significant time prior to the 2019 season. After rigorous rehab involving both a personal trainer and a physical therapist to help her improve her game, the teen was rewarded for her dedication.
It was only fitting that, in the final major tournament of the season, Andreescu would go on to dominate all competition to pick up the first major win of her career, powering through matches against Katie Volynets, Kirsten Flipkins, Caroline Wozniacki, Taylor Townsend, Elise Mertens, Belinda Bencic and Serena Williams. Winning a title prize of $3.85 million pales in comparison to the young phenom being crowned Canada’s newest celebrity. In the weeks that followed, Canada paraded its champion for the world to see.
In the immediate aftermath of the biggest win in Canadian tennis, you could not turn on a television, look at a social feed or read a paper without seeing Bianca Andreescu. The U.S. Open Champion was everywhere, from the Tonight Show to Live with Kelly and Ryan. When you’re hot, you’re hot! And everyone wanted to cozy by the fire of Bianca.
After the Raptors won the NBA Finals over the Golden State Warriors this past spring, the phrase #WeTheNorth became synonymous with the team for their location north of the American border. A similar hashtag of #SheTheNorth was given to Bianca after her performance on the grand stage. After all the talk show appearances and press conferences were through, the teenager received the keys to the cities of both Toronto and Mississauga. Her hometown also threw a celebration that was attended by hundreds of people, among them Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and many important dignitaries. This wasn’t like Sidney Crosby bringing back the Stanley Cup to his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia; this felt more like Terry Fox returning after the ‘Marathon of Hope.’
Bianca’s victory was another blow to the perception that Canada does not develop elite athletes. Canadians — who have been the brunt of American jokes for a long while — were regarded as afterthoughts in athletic competition. Despite the past successes of Michael Weir, Donovan Bailey and many more, there’s always been doubt about Canada’s ability to produce elite athletes in sports that don’t involve ice. Hockey reigns supreme when it comes to funding, marketing and promotion over any other sport.
However, Canada has slowly found its footing when it comes to developing athletes from other sports. Tennis Canada has produced budding names like Denis Shapovolov and Felix Auger Aliassime. Canada Basketball has produced an impressive amount of NBA and WNBA talent over the last decade. From basketball legend Steve Nash, to household names such as Jamaal Murray, Kelly Olynyk and R.J. Barrett, each one has contributed to putting to establishing the Red and White as a power in basketball circles. The rise of Bianca Andreescu is not an overnight success story. It’s an example of what investing into the development of a talented athletic population can do for the country.
With all the celebration going on, we have to ask ourselves, Is this too much too soon?
It was a different time and place when Donovan Bailey broke the world record in the 100 metre final in the 1996 Summer Olympics. Social media wasn’t a big deal back then. It’s part of the reason why the coronation of Canada’s Queen of Tennis far exceeds the excitement of the record-breaking 100 metre race in ’96 — from a Canadian viewership perspective. So it’s hard to compare the two feats side-by-side. However, for a player as young as Andreescu — who seems to have a lengthy career ahead — the celebration seems ambitious. Timing is everything. Winning the US Open came at a great time in the sports calendar. With the Blue Jays struggling down the home stretch, along with basketball and hockey being on hiatus in the summer, tennis filled the void in the sports landscape.
For a city that produced the NBA Champions the Toronto Raptors, you would’ve thought that it was the first major title the city has won in decades. Which makes me wonder if we’re celebrating the tennis star because she won, or because it’s a victory for Canada?
A win by Serena Williams in the U.S. Open would’ve tied her with Margaret Court for the WTA’s all-time Grand Slam Tournament victories at 24. It was expected to be a glorious win on home soil for Williams, who had the backing of an entire stadium. Instead, a plucky teenager threw her off her game, humbling the face of tennis. It’s difficult to say if the win means more to Andresecu than it would’ve for 37-year-old Willams. Clearly, it means more to Canadians than it does to its neighbours to the south — at least this time around.
Canada has a new queen — one that many were not expecting, but are glad to embrace. The country has made her into a celebrity and rightfully so given her hardships and accomplishments of the past couple of years. Whether her reign has longevity is anyone’s guess, but she will forever remember her time as the most popular person in the nation. That, or the time Drake slid in her DMs.