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Tennis

Just Like That, Bianca Andreescu Is Out Again

Bianca Andreescu sits on the court
Robert Prange/Getty Images

The ankle is one frailty we share with our athletic heroes. No matter how spectacular the body above, that accursed little joint is always up for sabotage. (Just ask that guy who had to get the "crab meat" scooped out in order to continue revolutionizing his sport.) It's also a pain intimately familiar to us unspectacular folk. Anyone who's ever, say, overlooked a step on a staircase knows it too well—a pain that is total, that pulverizes all other thoughts, that seems like an impossible punishment for a silly misstep. It appeared to be the ankle that got Bianca Andreescu on Monday night. She'd been building momentum at the Miami Open, taking out Emma Raducanu, then No. 7 seed Maria Sakkari, then a rebounding Sofia Kenin. It was possible to see, in silhouette, the player who made the final of this tournament in 2021, if not yet the player who won the U.S. Open in 2019. With one false step it all went dark again. Down a set to No. 18 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova, but up a break in the second, Andreescu moved to a ball and fell to the court clutching her lower left leg.

"I've never felt this kind of pain before," she screamed. Also audible was "not again." By 22, Andreescu has seen enough setbacks. As a junior she missed long stretches of competition with a stress fracture in her foot and back issues. She wound down 2019 with a knee injury, a premature ending to her 46-7 breakout season. That sidelined her for the first few months of 2020, and then the pandemic froze the tour; she did not compete for the rest of the season. In 2021, she put together some dramatic wins in Miami, only to retire from the final with an ankle sprain. The following month she tested positive for COVID-19, which forced her to withdraw from the Madrid Open, and continued testing positive for a month, all but killing her clay season. By October, when it was time to defend her 2019 Indian Wells title, she was spent. "I’m just sitting there, in this beautiful house, looking around at this beautiful place, and I keep thinking about how I should be so happy and so grateful to be there, how I’d won the tournament before. And I just hated everything," she later said of that moment. That prompted a six-month hiatus from tennis. When she returned in 2022, results were mixed, and 2023 seemed to offer more of the same. As recently as last month, she retired from a Thailand Open semifinal with a shoulder injury.

Over this past week, in a window of good health, Andreescu rediscovered the intuitive and spontaneous tennis that made her a top prospect. “I think it’s just another step in gaining most of my confidence back,” she said on Friday after a second-round win over Sakkari, one of just three top-10 wins she'd managed in the last three years. "I’m trying to be as fearless as I can be." After defeating Kenin in the third round, she reflected on a new mentality. "Last time I played here in 2021, I did not enjoy myself," she said in her on-court interview. "I did not feel that I deserved to be in that final. But this year, I feel like a totally different person, and I definitely feel I deserve to be here right now."

On Monday night, after spending several minutes on the court flanked by medical staff, Andreescu was helped to her feet. She embraced her opponent, sat in a wheelchair, and left in tears. She has not yet offered an update on the severity of her injury.

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