Bianca Andreescu Joins the Toronto Raptors as a Canadian Champion

Bianca Andreescu US Open final

Bianca Andreescu and the Toronto Raptors are forever intertwined. In June, the Raptors exploded into the Canadian consciousness by defeating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals to bring the Championship north of the border for the first time. Three months later, there is another champion of the North. And that is 19-year-old sensation Bianca Andreescu, who defeated Serena Williams 6-3 7-5 to become Canada’s first Grand Slam champion.

“There are so many emotions, it is so hard to describe,” stated Andreescu after her match. “I am so glad about how everything I handled today.”

Andreescu and the Raptors Battled and Conquered Adversity

At one time, tennis and basketball were considered afterthoughts in Canada, a country dominated by hockey. But slowly but surely, both sports have now entered the national sporting landscape in the Great White North. Young kids across the country are shooting hoops and hitting tennis balls on local public courts. And there is no doubt that it is the Raptors and Andreescu that have served as their inspiration.

Starting the season, no one would have predicted the meteoric success of the Toronto Raptors and Andreescu. Indeed, many questioned the long-term wisdom of the Raptors trade with the San Antonio Spurs for the soon-to-be out of contract Kawhi Leonard in exchange for the talented Demar DeRozan. Andreescu, meanwhile, had been battling injuries and self-doubt after losing in the first round of the US Open qualifying last year.

But both Canadian icons battled and conquered adversity. Leonard’s buzzer-beater in game seven of the Eastern Conference semifinals laid to rest the Raptors’ demons against the Philadelphia 76ers. Toronto then rallied from 0-2 down in the Conference final to beat the Milwaukee Bucks in overtime in game three and keep their hopes alive, eventually winning the next three games to reach the NBA Finals.

Andreescu, similarly, could have folded during many moments of the US Open. En route to the final, the Canadian had to win three-set matches against Taylor Townsend and Elise Mertens. Then against the great Williams, the teenage phenom had to conquer the crowd and withstand a late Williams fightback that saw the American stave off a championship point and battle back from 1-5 down to 5-5 in the second set.

But like her favourite basketball team, Andreescu raised her game in the pressure when the pressure was on. Her fearlessness and tough, gritty temperament are qualities that serve all athletes well and are guaranteed to earn any sportsperson respect in Canada. And when accepting the trophy, she even apologized to the crowd for beating her American opponent. A true Canadian through and through.

Bianca Andreescu Will Increase Tennis Participation in Canada

Before Andreescu, there were successful Canadian tennis players. Daniel Nestor often comes to mind after his long and successful career on the doubles court. Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic, meanwhile, were the first two to make a Grand Slam final in singles, but fell short of victory, although Vasek Pospisil did win the Wimbledon doubles title alongside Jack Sock in 2014, defeating the legendary Bryan Brothers in an epic final.

It was these athletes who paved the way for Andreescu. Now, with her victory at the US Open, the sky is the limit. More young Canadians will surely want to pick up the game of tennis, particularly with other young stars in Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime representing Canada on the ATP tour. Girls, in particularly, will look to Andreescu as a symbol of empowerment for female athletes. And the National Training Centre, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec but spreading across the country, will rapidly grow its influence in recruiting and breeding future stars.

Bianca Is Here to Stay

Saturday’s championship match may have marked the passing of the torch. The experienced veteran in Williams, now in the twilight of her career, gave way to the young gun Andreescu. The Raptors are trademarked and defined by their motto ‘We The North’. Now, Andreescu is ‘She The North’ and ready to emerge as a fully-fledged star on the women’s tour. When she was 15-years-old, Andreescu wrote a cheque for the US Open prize money, dreaming to win the tournament on tennis’ grandest stage. The dream has become reality for the Mississauga, Ontario native. And her message to the tennis world?

“Let’s Keep Going!”

Bianca is here to stay.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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