All eyes will be on 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu on Tuesday when she plays a first-round singles match at the Rogers Cup in Toronto.
This will be the first time Andreescu will be playing in the event after failing to qualify the last two years.
She was given a wild card spot into the main event by Tennis Canada when Maria Sharapova pulled out because of an injury. Andreescu will be playing Timea Babos of Hungary, who is ranked 42nd on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour, but has lost her last nine matches.
“Thank you Tennis Canada for giving me the chance to play in the main draw on my home soil,” Andreescu tweeted when given the wildcard entry.
She is also slated to play in doubles with fellow Canadian Carson Branstine on Wednesday.
“Just being part of all of that is such an honour and a dream come true,” Andreescu told CBC Toronto on Monday.
“I’m starting to practice with (the more experienced pros) more often and playing with them, which gives me a lot of confidence and experience, which is what I need right now. For the crowd to be for me, I think that’s really going to help me in my matches.”
Andreescu is ranked 156th on the Women’s Tennis Association, climbing steadily since starting out the year 293th. Andreescu advanced to the quarter-finals in the recent CiTi Open in Washington, representing her first top-20 win.
“Because she had such a great tournament last week in Washington, she’s really gotten some notoriety for herself,” Tournament Director Karl Hale says. “Because of the phone calls that have all of a sudden come in (from the public) asking when she’s playing), we’re featuring her Tuesday night. There’s so much interest in her.”
Andreescu has had an interesting year, winning the Australian Open and French Open Junior doubles titles with Branstine. Andreescu also played in her first Wimbledon match. And she participated in Canada’s Fed Cup Americas Zone Group 1 victory over Chile. She helped Canada defeat Kazakhstan in the Group II playoffs.
She is the latest Canadian women’s tennis phenom in a list that includes Carling Bassett, Helen Kelesi and now Eugenie Bouchard. She is the top-ranked 17-year-old on the WTA Tour.
“I think she had the potential to be an up-and-coming star and we did expect good things, but you never know what the result is going to be,” Hale says.
Andreescu’s opening-round win in the CiTi Open was her first on the WTA Tour. Her second-round win against Kristina Mladenovic made history as she became the first player born in the 2000s to beat a Top-20 player.
Hale talked to Andreescu for quite awhile on Monday in advance of her historic match.
“She talked about Washington and how she played each match at a time,” Hale says. “She felt like she belonged with those players. I think she feels like she belongs in the Rogers Cup with these calibre of players, so I think she’ll go in there very confident, not thinking to win or lose, but very confident she can compete with these players. She’ll have huge support.We have an almost sold-out night, so we look forward to this. She’s a new rising star and we have a lot of keen tennis supporters that follow our Canadian players now, so people are really interested (in seeing her play).”