ROME — Bianca Andreescu’s first Italian Open had just come to an understandable halt in the quarterfinals against Iga Swiatek, a steamroller disguised as a tennis star.
But even after failing to prevent the top-ranked Swiatek from extending her winning streak to 26 matches, Andreescu still took a seat in the Roman sunshine with a broad smile on her face.
Defeat at this stage does not have the same hard edge that defeat has had in other phases of her career.
“Honestly, I’m just fired up to get back out there and play her again,” Andreescu said in an interview after her loss, 7-6 (2), 6-0, on Friday. “If I look at myself a year ago, there’s just been so much progress in the way I’m handling being back on tour and my wins and my losses. I’m just super motivated. I want to go back on court right now and work on being more aggressive or whatnot.”
Andreescu, a 21-year-old Canadian from the Toronto suburbs, remains one of the great talents in tennis, which she made abundantly clear in 2019 by winning the U.S. Open women’s singles title in her first attempt, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets.
Ranked a career-high No. 4 in the month that followed, she will be No. 72 on Monday but still has that beguiling blend of finesse and punch and a rare ability to shift gears and spins. She also has powerful legs reminiscent of her role model Kim Clijsters that help her cover the court explosively and generate big-time pace despite lacking the leverage of taller players (she is 5-foot-6).
“There’s no shot she cannot hit,” said Daniela Hantuchová, an analyst and former top five player who was commentating courtside on Friday as Andreescu and Swiatek played on tour for the first time.
“In that first set, Bianca was not far from her top level at all,” Hantuchová said. “For me, that was the best set of tennis in the women’s tournament so far. In a way, it almost feels like a mirror against a mirror. They have different technique, but they have their routines between the points mentally, and tactically they know exactly what they are trying to do out there. Both are great athletes, and I kept saying during the match that I hope we see this matchup more often. It would be a wonderful rivalry to have.”
But until now, Andreescu, unlike the 20-year-old Swiatek, has been only a part-time threat. There have been a series of injuries, a career-long concern, and more recently the malaise that moved her to take her most-recent extended break after the BNP Paribas Open in …….