Bianca Andreescu grew up watching tennis at the Olympics, imagining herself one day competing for Canada with a gold medal on the line.
Although she won’t be in Tokyo when the Olympic tennis tournament kicks off this weekend, the Mississauga, Ont. Native will be watching her teammates on TV trying to make her gold medal dreams come true.
Andreescu, the 2019 US Open winner, pulled out of the Olympics earlier this month.
She called the decision “difficult” and “disappointing,” but taken with her physical and mental health in mind in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And at 21, she hasn’t given up on her Olympic goals.
“I know I hope to have two more Olympics in me because I feel really confident about what I have to offer myself and the world,” Andreescu said during a Zoom call with La Presse Canadian.
“I’ve been watching (the Olympics) since I was little, imagining myself in their position. So I really, really hope this can become a reality.”
Andreescu said the ongoing pandemic was the “main reason” she decided to skip the Tokyo Games.
She has been affected both directly and indirectly by COVID-19 this year, tested positive for the virus in April and missing the Madrid Open, and her routing and training schedule has been disrupted by self-isolation and pandemic restrictions at other tournaments, including the Australian Open in February.
Andreescu will then compete in the National Bank Open in Montreal, which kicks off August 6. She won the event, then called the Rogers Cup, the last time it was played in 2019.
Andreescu said she has high hopes for Canada’s tennis team in Tokyo, which includes 18-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez, ranked 72nd on the WTA Tour and no. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime, both from Montreal.
Fernandez opens her women’s singles tournament on Saturday (Friday night ET) against 46th Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine. 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime takes on two-time Olympic champion Andy Murray of Great Britain in his first round match.
Andreescu has known Auger-Aliassime since she was 12 and has trained with him and Fernandez over the years.
While Auger-Aliassime is still on the hunt for his first ATP title after making eight finals, Andreescu said she feels he is on the verge of breaking through. His run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon this month, his best Grand Slam performance, is proof of that.
“I don’t worry about him,” Andreescu said. “I’m sure he can continue to do well and even better, and I really think he has the potential to win a Grand Slam.”
Andreescu will also be keeping a close eye on the swimming competition in Tokyo, where her good friend Penny Oleksiak of Toronto aims to defend her gold in the 100-meter freestyle, one of four medals won by the 16-year-old. at the last Summer Games. in 2016.
Andreescu remembers watching Oleksiak’s impressive Olympic debut in Rio five years ago, and although the two didn’t know each other at the time, Andreescu said it was inspiring to see this groundbreaking performance.
“I (was looking at her) and I was like ‘damn it, I wanna be like this. I wanna do this,'” Andreescu said with a laugh. “So it’s super sad that I can’t be there, but I’m definitely going to watch her and cheer her on.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2021.