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Canadian tennis star Andreescu says she's physically and mentally ready to return

Feeling physically and mentally ready to return after a 15-month break from competitive match play, Canada's Bianca Andreescu said she trusts her capabilities and is eager to get started at the Australian Open.

Feeling physically and mentally ready to return after a 15-month break from competitive match play, Canada's Bianca Andreescu said she trusts her capabilities and is eager to get started at the Australian Open.

"I've prepared in the best way that I could," Andreescu said. "I had a good five-month pre-season I would say, and at this point, I'm just super-grateful to be back healthy. 

"I'm really looking forward to it."

Andreescu met with the media Friday (late Thursday Eastern Time) for a 20-minute availability ahead of the first Grand Slam of the 2021 season.

After arriving Down Under last month and enduring a two-week hard quarantine, Andreescu planned to play a warmup event this week but decided to withdraw on the eve of competition. 

She decided that more on-court training time and playing sets on her own was a better approach.

"The mentality from the start was that I probably wouldn't play," she said from Melbourne. "But I wanted to see how I would feel on the court. We just thought that it didn't make sense."

The 20-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., hasn't played a competitive match since injuring her left knee at the WTA Finals in 2019, a couple months after winning the US Open.

The injury hampered her in early 2020 and she declined to return when the WTA Tour resumed play after taking a break due to the pandemic.

"I want to focus on the future now," she said, reiterating that she's fully healthy. "I'm good."

Andreescu touched on a variety of topics during the session, with many international reporters connecting via video conference.

She said she kept busy in quarantine by doing shadow tennis drills, Zoom fitness sessions, reading, meditating and playing Xbox, with "Call of Duty" her game of choice.  

Andreescu also finally offered specifics on the left knee injury that ended her 2019 season, confirming she suffered a torn meniscus. 

She added that her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Australia, was doing well and has resumed helping her with training. 

Andreescu said Bruneau had to spend an extra day in quarantine. He was scheduled to hold a conference call of his own on Friday afternoon to discuss tournament preparations.

Andreescu enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2019 after starting the season ranked No. 152 in the world. She closed the year at No. 5 despite missing some time throughout the season due to injuries.

She earned titles at Indian Wells, Calif., and Toronto that year before winning her first Grand Slam title in New York.

Andreescu was on Canada's Fed Cup roster for a tie in Switzerland last February but didn't play due to her knee injury. She announced in September that she would take the rest of the season off to focus on health and training. 

Andreescu, currently ranked eighth in the world, has shown in the past that she can quickly get back to a high level of play after a break.

She played just one match in a four-month span leading up to the 2019 Rogers Cup and ended up winning the tournament.

The Australian Open singles draws were released Friday, with first-round play beginning Monday at Melbourne Park.

Andreescu's first match will be against lucky loser Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.

World No. 89 Leylah Annie Fernandez, of Laval, Que., faces 18th-seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, and Toronto's Rebecca Marino is in as a qualifier and will play wild card Kimberly Birrell of Australia to round the women's side.

On the men's side, 11th-seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., opens against No. 36 Jannik Sinner of Italy, Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., is seeded 14th and will play No. 92 Federico Coria of Argentina, Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime, seeded 20th, gets lucky loser Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany and Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil, world No. 61, faces No. 4 Daniil Medvedev of Russia. 

"This is what I love to do," Andreescu said. "I'm super-passionate and I love to win. Hopefully I can do that as well."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 4, 2021. 

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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