Bianca Andreescu: Impossible Dream

Bianca Andreescu knows she has to get uncomfortable as she prepares her mind and body to compete on tennis’ biggest stage.

It’s disconcerting to be talking to a woman who has reached the pinnacle of her sport and has a birthday in the 2000’s. It doesn’t seem like enough time to become the best at, well, anything. That’s why I’m eager to learn the story of 21-year-old Bianca Andreescu. 

The only child of Romanian-born parents, Andreescu was born in Mississauga, Ontario but spent much of her youth traveling back and forth between Canada and their motherland. Her parents emigrated back in the Ceausescu days when leaving the country was no simple feat. Arriving without a lick of English, they made a life for themselves.

Young Andreescu tried her hand at many sports – including skating, swimming, soccer, and volleyball (shockingly not gymnastics considering her Romanian roots) – but frankly, she hated them all. At the age of seven, she picked up a tennis racket and something just clicked; it was love at first swing.

As her talent developed, the family made the decision to move to Canada for good. They needed the opportunities in the sport that Canada provided. She got hooked up with the Tennis Canada program and the rest, as they say, is history.

In 2019, Andreescu arrived at the highest level of one of the most demanding of individual sports, one that blends raw talent, skill, fitness, strategy, adaptability – and sheer determination. She beat Serena Williams. Twice. 

The 19-year-old became the queen of the sport, winning both the Canadian Open and US Open, defeating the athlete many consider to be the GOAT. Over 8 months, her world ranking rocketed  from 152 to 5. 

Two years on and it has been anything but smooth sailing. Andreescu has been plagued by a series of injuries and a bout with Covid-19. Early exits in a series of major tournaments, including Wimbledon and the French Open, and most recently, the National Bank Open (where she failed to defend her title), has doubters doubting.

Despite the setbacks, she says she is feeling better than ever (despite a frustrating toenail issue) and is focused on enjoying the process, readying herself for the big show: her first appearance at the US Open in Flushing Meadows since her stunning victory in 2019.

Right now, it’s all about the right preparation, which means being comfortable getting uncomfortable. Her coach tells her that it’s not easy to become great. You can do things to become good, but to be great you have to get uncomfortable – to put yourself in situations that help you grow. 

So, that’s what she does, day in and day out, to prepare herself mind and body for one of the biggest challenges of her career. Let’s look at a day in the life of this super-talented phenom. 

Rise and meditate

Meditation is the cornerstone of her morning. It takes about 10-15 minutes, depending on how she feels and what she needs. She has been meditating since she was 13 years-old, inspired by her mother. She was skeptical at first.

“My mom would put books beside my bed and explain things and after a while, I decided to try it. Even though I was only young, I was very competitive, and I wanted to do whatever I could to improve my tennis game. I didn’t like it at first but what really kept me going was knowing the effect it had – I knew that it would help me get to where I wanted to go in life.”

And where she wanted to go was to the top. “I wanted to be a professional tennis player. I didn’t think it was possible, but I had those dreams. So, I started with one minute, then three, then five and just gradually worked my way up to 30 minutes which is my maximum. It’s all about training my brain to be able to stay focused.”

What started as just breathing exercises has led her to join the organization Mindvalley, where she learns from the best teachers on a science-based platform. She practices visualization meditation, focusing on things like gratitude, forgiveness, and manifestation. 

Morning affirmations

“I like to do affirmations to myself – it just makes me feel good and it just gets my day started on the right ‘now.’ I just look at myself in the mirror and say “I’m powerful. I’m beautiful, inside and out. I’m invincible. I’m strong.”

On days when she’s feeling insecure or down on herself, she throws even more passion behind the words, despite feeling, well, silly.

“I’ve learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable which I think is one of my biggest strengths. It didn’t come easily to me and I know there is still a lot to improve on, but on tough days you have to do things to get out of that slump.”

Time for tennis

While meditation and affirmations help her get in the right frame of mind to succeed, her physical preparation includes a tennis practice in the morning followed by a 90-minute fitness session in the afternoon. 

“I set goals daily, like what I want to achieve in practice. Obviously, things change, and you have to adapt, especially with some of my longer-term goals. I try not to put pressure on myself because maybe that’s not the right time to accomplish that goal.”

While she strives to be at her very best every single day, hoping to accomplish her big goals, she is aware that timing is everything. This requires patience and positivity, two things Andreescu has struggled with in the past. 

“I’ve gotten so down on myself, especially in this last little while, because I haven’t been getting the results that I wanted. But that’s because I was so focused on that end goal that I totally forgot about the process.”

In training, she focuses on accomplishing and celebrating the little things rather than focusing all her energy on the endgame. This requires her to just slow down and enjoy the process. “I’ve been doing that, and I’ve noticed a real difference. I’ve started enjoying practice again and waking up excited to do the things I need to do.”

After fitness, it’s all about rest and recovery: physical therapy and treatment to get her body ready for tomorrow.

Fuelling the machine

“Nutrition is everything. I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for the past four or five years now and I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m not 100%. I’m about 85% because I f*%#ing love pizza. On my cheat days I always get pizza. Always, always,” she says.

She shuns a super strict diet, saying that she ends up thinking too much about her body image and feeling insecure. “Every time you take a bite out of something you’re not supposed to eat, you feel guilty.”

She enjoys healthy food without too many condiments (“the sauces will kill you”) and cooks with olive oil. On her salads she uses lemon and apple cider vinegar to give it some zest and she chooses fish like salmon over red meat (“it has more flavour than chicken”).

Like everyone, she tends to snack when she’s bored, so she is on top of that and has healthy snacks like veggies on hand.

“I’ve tried intermittent fasting, which shrunk my stomach and made me eat less. I fast for 17 hours and then eat lunch and dinner. But really, it’s just about everything in moderation.”

Bianca time

Just like that, her day of training is behind her and she gets to revert back to being a normal 21-year-old who likes bingeing Netflix and playing video games.

“This is a time for me to just forget about the pressures of everything else going on in my life. It just makes me feel good.”

When she has the time and energy, she likes to take classes online, exploring topics that both interest her and will aid her in her training, like nutrition, mental health and neuroscience. 

Night night

“I Try to go to bed at a decent time but sometimes I feel too anxious, so I like to do breathing meditations where I just focus on my breath or I countdown from 100.”

For rest, eight hours is her minimum and 10 hours her max otherwise she becomes “sluggish.” 

Hitting the reset button

While most of her days are essentially structured in the same way, there are emotional and physical highs and lows that can take a toll.  “Sometimes I honestly just need to say ‘Bye-bye tennis. Bye-bye fitness.  Bye-bye traveling.’ And literally just go home and spend time with my family and friends and totally reset.”

Due to the nature of her sport and the level at which she is required to perform, that kind of escape is not always possible. “If it’s during a tournament, what really helps me the most is just focusing on what’s going on right now and how I can be ok with it. You can’t fix everything all at once and that’s something I’ve had to learn along the way.”

Bad days are just part of the process – the process that she is trying her best to embrace and enjoy. She knows that although she will always have the love and support from family and friends, at the end of the day, she is the only one that can do the hard work. 

“What helps me the most is going to the people I love the most and who love me and just talking about it. It helps let out so many emotions. But then you have to take all that love and support and act on it because you’re the one that has to move your ass. Your mom can’t move your ass for you.”

No, she certainly can’t. But If she could, I’m sure she would.

Discover More: Check out this great article by Sonia Has on how to tweak your lifestyle.