MONTREAL — It is said that a step back can sometimes help you move forward, and that was the approach Bianca Andreescu took last fall after months of physical and other setbacks.
The 2019 season is young, as is her professional tennis career, but few players on the women's tour are attracting as much attention as the 18-year-old Canadian.
Interest shot up even more Wednesday when Andreescu steamrolled over Garbine Muguruza of Spain, ranked 20th in the world and the winner of two Grand Slam tournaments. Andreescu won 6-0, 6-1 in just 52 minutes to advance to the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
The match was 40 minutes old before Muguruza won her first and only game of the match — the fourth game of the second set — and if the Spaniard hoped then that her young opponent would flinch, she was mistaken. Two visits by Muguruza's coach during the match did nothing to help her solve her opponent.
After the loss, Muguruza paid tribute to Andreescu, saying that every time she tried something different, the Canadian responded with better shots.
Andreescu's coach, Sylvain Bruneau, said her style of play contributed to Muguruza's frustration.
"Overall, Bianca has a game that can be a little different from most players," Bruneau said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press Wednesday night.
"She is able to do a lot with the ball, she can bring a lot of variations that sometimes push her opponents to lose their rhythm a bit, to make unusual mistakes."
He said Andreescu was able to maintain a consistently high level of tennis against Muguruza, committing very few errors.
After her 26th win in 29 matches this year, Andreescu earned a place in Friday's semifinals. She will face another top player, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, ranked sixth in the world.
Even if she loses to Svitolina, Andreescu is guaranteed to move to at least 38th place when the new WTA standings come out Monday, a jump of 22 positions from the beginning of the week.
The rise of Andreescu is even more spectacular in light of where she stood last year. Last March, she was ranked 196th, and in October she had slipped to 242nd.
That was when Bruneau and Andreescu decided to adopt a new game plan.
An injury in the summer forced her to miss tournaments in Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver, and WTA rules had limited how many tournaments she could play before she turned 18 in June.
"In the fall, we made the decision for her to play smaller tournaments, to try to play a lot of matches, and it worked," Bruneau said. "I think she played 21 matches, won 18, and then something started. Bianca's potential was there before that, but then her confidence clicked. We were able to try things that might have been harder to do on the big stage against top-ranked players."
Andreescu had climbed to 152nd by the end of December. A week later, after making it to the final in Auckland, New Zealand, Andreescu was 107th in the world.
"I would be lying if I said I knew she would make the final in Auckland, that she would beat (Caroline) Wozniacki, Venus Williams and so on," Bruneau said. "But I knew we were really headed in the right direction, and it was just a matter of time before she arrived at WTA tournaments and had good results. It happened a little faster than I expected, but I knew it would happen."
Still, Bruneau knows history is full of young tennis players who could not maintain the pace after a promising debut, and he does not want to get carried away.
"She is arriving suddenly on the scene, drawing a lot of attention, but I have to admit that we are trying — Bianca first, and that's what's important — to stay grounded," he said.
"We have to avoid getting too excited and take it day to day. What I can say is that she has a very, very high potential. She has the potential to do great things in women's tennis. She recently shown her talent, her tennis, her abilities. But this is only the beginning."
Michel Lamarche, The Canadian Press