I am not a huge sports fan but like millions of other Canadians, I have become an enthusiastic supporter of our countrywoman Bianca Andreescu who just won two major tennis tournaments in a row, Canada’s Rogers Cup and the United States Open. So what is it about this young athlete that has made her a superstar in her home and native land? Here are four reasons I admire her.
1. Bianca is a feminist. For too long women’s sport has taken a back seat to men’s sport. Bianca is determined to change that. At the US Open, her final match against Serena Williams sold out before the men’s final did. After Bianca won the prestigious Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament in March she did an interview with CBC news reporter Adrienne Arsenault wearing a shirt that featured the word EQUALITY in capital letters. When asked about her shirt’s message, Bianca said she wants to use her success as a platform to advocate for the equality of women in sport.
Bianca paid tribute to the legendary Billie Jean King who did so much to establish better pay for female tennis players in the United States. Thanks to Billie Jean’s efforts Bianca won the same amount of money at the US Open as the male winner Rafael Nadal.
But at the Canadian Rogers Cup, Bianca walked away with only half the prize money the male champion did. I suspect that could change with someone as persuasive and articulate as Bianca championing equal pay for women athletes in Canada.
2. Bianca is from an immigrant family. Her mother and father came to Canada from Romania. They have contributed to our country in the fields of engineering and financial investment respectively, and now their daughter has contributed to the field of sport in an unprecedented way. Canadian hockey great Wayne Gretzky was interviewed in New York just before Bianca played her final game in the US Open. He talked about how his father’s parents immigrated to Canada from Ukraine. Wayne’s Dad loves the fact that Canada is a place where people are welcomed from all around the world. Here they have the opportunity to work hard and become great Canadians. Wayne Gretzky thinks that is an important aspect of Bianca’s story too.
3. Bianca is young. She is only nineteen and yet she is poised, confident, mature, polite and respectful. She handles interviews with aplomb, is quick to give credit to her parents and coaches, and to pay tribute to the great women in tennis who paved the way for her. Sometimes we talk about our teenagers and young adults as ‘the lost generation.’ Bianca is anything but lost. She is looking ahead to a bright future. There are lots of young people out there just like Bianca, who are ready to make a difference in the world and have the skills to do just that. Bianca has become a hopeful symbol of the next generation.
4. Bianca is a woman. Bianca’s long-time idol, Serena Williams, had to pull out of the Rogers Cup final against Bianca, due to a back injury. Bianca, who had never met Williams before, walked right over to her and gave her a huge hug. She told Serena she was the greatest. A beast on the court! Bianca said she could understand how sad Serena must be feeling. Later Williams told reporters Bianca’s warmth and empathy had been the highlight of the tournament for her. Would a male player have acted in a similar way with his fiercest opponent? Somehow I don’t think so.
I’ve come up with four reasons why Bianca Andreescu is someone I admire. I suspect I will find others as I watch Bianca compete in the future.