At the Australian Open, Bianca Andreescu Is the Great Unknown

To Mary Carillo, the former player and longtime tennis analyst, Andreescu is among the most compelling players in the tournament. Carillo compared her to Juan Martín del Potro, who beat Roger Federer to win the U.S. Open when he was just 20, then sustained a series of injuries and never fulfilled the promise of that triumph.

“When you see players like Juan-Martín and Bianca burn a hole in the sport the way they did, you know they’ve got the goods,” Carillo said. “You want to watch them put their games up against the very best. You know they can win majors. You want them to hang around and prove it was real, time after time, year after year, become one of the true greats.”

Everyone in tennis knows Andreescu has talent to burn. She has power from the baseline and on her serve. She has the athleticism to chase down balls in the corners. At any moment, from any spot on the court, she can cut a slice with so much spin it dances when it lands. All this, plus the experience of winning a Grand Slam title, and she has only played about 50 WTA singles matches.

But coming to Australia, Andreescu had not played a match since October 2019. The inactivity would leave most players with little more than a puncher’s chance for success. Andreescu, though, has shown a freakish ability to shake off rust and play deep into tournaments. A back injury kept her out of competition for two months in the fall of 2018. When she came back she won two titles on the lower tier I.T.F. circuit.

In 2019, an injury to her right shoulder largely sidelined her from April until August. She returned for the Rogers Cup in Toronto, one of the most high profile tournaments outside of the four majors, and won after Serena Williams retired from the final with back spasms four games into the match. Then she reeled off another seven consecutive wins and became the U.S. Open champion.

That is not normal. Angelique Kerber of Germany, the three-time Grand Slam winner, said that when injuries cause long layoffs, it can take months to find the motivation to get on court and go to your limit. “I think that’s the hardest challenge,” Kerber said.