Bianca Andreescu’s ‘Aha moment’ made Australian Open win possible

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Bianca Andreescu traces the path that brought her back to the tennis tour after a mental health break – and, on Monday, put her back in the win column thanks to beating a seeded opponent at the Australian Open – to what she calls “an `Aha’ moment” on a beach in Costa Rica during a spiritual retreat nearly a year ago.

Here, then, is how the 22-year-old Canadian described that epiphany in an interview with The Associated Press at Melbourne Park: “I am meant to play the sport and use it as a platform to be an inspiration for others.”

Andreescu, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 U.S. Open final as a teenager, went through a series of health issues, including catching COVID-19, that derailed her career in 2020 and slowed her in 2021, too. She also split from her long-time coach. All in all, there was a lot going on – after beating No. 25 seed Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4 at Court 3, Andreescu used the word “hectic” to describe that period – and she went six months without playing a match from October 2021 to April 2022, including sitting out last year’s Australian Open.

“That was when I started to ask myself the question: Is this worth it? Is this life worth it? Because I was very stressed out with many things: People in my life; the way I was looking at myself in the mirror,” Andreescu said. “Just holding a tennis racket, I didn’t feel happy anymore. Or content. Because usually, going on the court is my getaway place – and it stopped feeling like that.”

She realized she needed to re-evaluate where she was and where she was headed.

“Do I keep pushing and pushing and hope for the best? Or do I take a step back? So that’s what I did. I took a break. And I did other things outside of tennis. I did a lot of charity work. I traveled to a few places. Hung out with friends I hadn’t hung out with in two or three years. I started playing soccer again. I did some skating. I started martial arts. I did dancing. A bunch of other things. And it really made me appreciate tennis even more,” Andreescu said with a wide smile. “I honestly didn’t know when I was going to pick up a racket again.”

During her time in Costa Rica last February, Andreescu found a new frame of mind.

“I felt much better in 2022 than I did in 2021, when after losses, I felt so discouraged,” she said. “Now I just want to get back on court. I feel very motivated.”

Sure seemed that way against Bouzkova, a U.S. Open quarterfinalist last year.

Andreescu mixed up her shots and overpowered her foe when opting for big cuts on groundstrokes.

“Just didn’t give me much space to breathe and to sort of get my momentum going,” Bouzkova said.

Andreescu said she felt a mix of nerves and relief, because she really wanted to win.

Which she did and now will face 100th-ranked Cristina Bucsa of Spain as the journey continues.

“I like to say what my mom always tells me: `Follow your heart.’ That’s what I did. I have a strong intuition, I would say, and I feel like a lot of other people do. So trust your gut,” Andreescu said, pointing her interlocking fingers toward her heart. “If you don’t feel good in something for a while – I didn’t feel good for two or three months – I would say to take a step back, if you can.”


Teenage qualifier Shang Juncheng became the first Chinese man to win a main-draw match at the Australian Open in the professional era, beating Germany’s Oscar Otte 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5.

“I think it’s huge for Chinese men’s tennis,” said the 17-year-old Shang, who hit 34 winners. “We have had really good players from the women’s side, but not really big names in the men’s.”

Added Shang: “Hopefully we can do something big in the future.”

Shang, the 2021 U.S. Open junior runner-up, is the first 17-year-old to win his first Grand slam match since current No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz did it at the Australian Open two years ago.

“Quite a big accomplishment,” Shang said. “Looking up to Carlos, he’s the best player in the world right now. Just watching him play on the court really inspires me, inspires the young, young players.”

China placed three men in the main draw of a Grand Slam event for the first time.

Wu Yibing lost his first-round match to France’s Corentin Moutet. Zhang Zhizhen plays American Ben Shelton.


Jessica Pegula prepared for her first-round victory at the Australian Open by watching on TV as the Buffalo Bills edged the Miami Dolphins 34-31 in their opening game of the NFL playoffs.

The No. 3-seeded Pegula, whose parents own the Bills and the NHL’s Sabres, said she woke up and watched most of the second half before going on to defeat Jacqueline Cristian 6-0, 6-1 at Margaret Court Arena.

“It was a tough game. Not the prettiest of wins,” Pegula said about the Bills. “Definitely an ugly win, I think.”

“It’s like first game, playoffs, everyone is kind of nervous, a lot of tension,” she added, likening it to the jitters before an initial match at a Grand Slam tournament.

“It was fun obviously for them to get that win before I went on court,” Pegula said. “It wouldn’t have really affected me, I don’t think, but I would have just been annoyed that they lost.”

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

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PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

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PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.