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    Andreescu’s ‘Aha moment’ made win possible

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Bianca Andreescu traces the path that brought her back to the tennis tour after a mental health break – and, yesterday, 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 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 US 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 number 25 seed Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4 at Court 3 yesterday, 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.”

    Bianca Andreescu of Canada reacts after winning a point. PHOTO: AP

    She realised 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 travelled to a few places. Hung out with friends I hadn’t hung out with in two or three years. I started playing football 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 US 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 at the end yesterday, because she really wanted to win.

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

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