Picking a ‘dark horse’ for a tournament is a dangerous game, just look at Turkey at Euro 2020. Fancied to upset the odds and go deep in the competition after a strong qualifying campaign, Turkey were the consensus ‘dark horse’ pick. But they fell flat, in a big way, losing all three matches, conceding seven goals and scoring just one. The consensus now is that they were the worst ‘dark horse’ pick in some time.
In picking Bianca Andreescu as a ‘dark horse’ to win Wimbledon there’s the risk that she could go the same way as Turkey. Her results at the tournament – a first-round loss in 2017 and qualifying defeat in 2018 - suggest it’s more likely she loses in the first week than she makes the second.
But is there a chance Andreescu could be a surprise package in an open-looking field? Yes.
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For starters there’s the aforementioned field. Defending Simona Halep could be out, world No 2 Naomi Osaka is out, the rest of the top 10 have little history of success at Wimbledon, and even Serena Williams may be vulnerable due to her lack of competitive matches this year.
There are certainly questions over Andreescu too. In her first match in grass on three years she lost in straight sets to Alize Cornet in Berlin last week. She hasn’t played Wimbledon since 2018 and her form this year has been patchy, not helped by A Series of Unfortunate Events, which actually stretch all the way back to 2019 after she won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open.
“I don’t know where to start,” the 21-year-old explained this week at Eastbourne, where she won her first grass main-draw match before losing in straight sets to Anett Kontaveit.
“After doing so well in 2019, boom, I get injured. I'm off for six months. I'm ready to play Indian Wells, first tournament back, and then literally that tournament is when everything [Covid-19] started. I was there for, like, three days and everyone said it's cancelled and I had to go back. I was just at home, sitting on my butt for, I don't know how long, like six, seven months. I mean, I was training for sure here and there, but it was a pandemic. There were so many restrictions.
“And then other things happened during that time, some health issues with my family and this and that. So it was super hard for me to deal with. But like I said before, I really tried to persevere through those moments. But then something else happened, which was the quarantine in Australia, and then the quarantine in Madrid, me catching Covid.
“So it's just like these things back and forth. To me, I try to have the mindset of everything happens for a reason, and it's kind of just helped me for the bigger picture and my purpose in life, and I want to try to take every moment as a positive in a way. Even though it could seem like the world is crashing down, I made sure to stay as grateful as I could, because, like, other people have it way worse, you know, so that really keeps me going. I try to have that big picture in mind all the time.”
Andreescu, who split with long-time coach Sylvain Bruneau after the French Open this year, missed all of 2020 and only returned to action at the Australian Open earlier this year. Although she only made the second round of the Grand Slam, she followed up with a semi-final run at the Phillip Island Trophy and a very impressive run to the final at the Miami Open, featuring four consecutive three-set wins. Her clay season was disrupted by injuries and Covid-19 issues, but she is still only 21, and is determined to enjoy more success – and to improve on grass.
“I do have a good mental image of how I want to be playing on grass, and I know it's not going to come right away,” she said in Eastbourne. “It would be nice, but I know if I keep getting good practice time and more matches, that's why I'm playing doubles as well this week.
“I think that's going to help my grass court game a lot, because I'm going to be working on my volleys, and I want to be coming a lot to the net. And then also for my serve, too, return, all of that. So far it's been going good.”
Whether Andreescu can adapt to grass quick enough to win Wimbledon this year is up for debate, but she has shown that when fully healthy she is one of the best players on tour.
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