The challenges of childhood can later serve as lessons if we are able to fully process them. This is what happened to Bianca Andreescu as she mined her personal history for a long-envisioned children’s book.
The objective was to sketch out the narrative for “Bibi’s Got Game: A Story about Tennis, Meditation and a Dog Named Coco.” But ultimately, there were some revelations along the way.
“Therapy, for sure,” Andreescu said recently from Berlin, Germany. “I really had to dig deep into my memories as a child. Talking to the writer on the phone, I was doing some shadow work.”
“Hang on a second,” Andreescu said, “I want to get this exactly right.”
After 20 seconds, she shared the results of her Google search.
“It’s working with your unconscious mind to uncover parts of yourself that you’ve repressed and hid from yourself, especially from childhood,” she said. “Yeah, it’s deep.
“Just to put it out there and tell my story definitely helped me.”
That remarkable story might be better served by a novel. She was born in Ontario, Canada, and learned tennis, beginning at the age of 7, in Romania. She and her parents, Maria and Nicu, moved back to Canada four years later, in 2011, and took up residence in Toronto, near Tennis Canada’s U-14 National Training Centre.
And then, in 2019, Andreescu put together what many players would call a career – in a span of less than six months. Still 18, she won her first career title at the Hologic WTA Tour level in Indian Wells, beating Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber in succession. After turning 19, she took the title in Toronto, beating Serena Williams in the final, and at the US Open with another finals victory over the 23-time major champion. Her ranking soared to No.4 but, as it turned out, that was the high-water mark.
A series of injuries and the global pandemic conspired to prevent her from playing matches for 16 months and the resulting “sadness and turmoil” left her in a dark place. The 2021 season (and a 17-13 match record) wasn’t up to her standard of two years prior and Andreescu took another six-month sabbatical before returning this spring in Stuttgart.
The idea for a book arrived far ahead of her sudden stardom.
“So at the age of 15 I had a dream that I wrote a book,” Andreescu said. “I told my mom about it and she said, `Yeah, let’s do it.’ Obviously, at that age I didn’t have much to say, but a few years passed and, yeah, I developed the purpose of wanting to inspire and help people help themselves through difficult times.
“Specifically, I wanted to write a children’s book to start off my writing journey. Because I feel like everything starts at a young age.”
Just ahead of the pandemic in 2020, her then-agency, Octagon, helped set her up with a publisher and a support team that included writer Mary Beth Leatherdale and illustrator Chelsea O’Byrne. There were a number of interviews as the team discussed how to best shape the story and leverage the advice and tools that helped her succeed as a young athlete.
And cope with adversity.
“I remember I got injured and I was super down on myself and I was crying to my parents,” Andreescu said. “People would actually make fun of me. A lot of kids, I think maybe we’ve all been through some bullying that happened to us, little setbacks. It was the support of my parents that really helped me get through it.
“It’s also about the mindset that I had to develop to not let that affect me too much. Children can really get something out of it and start implementing some of the things in the book that I’ve addressed. Also for the parents, or the people reading the book to the children, I’m sure it will definitely resonate.”
It was a long time coming; book publishing can be a complicated process. Andreescu connected instantly with Leatherdale and appreciates the effort she made to get the story just right. It was released at the end of May and, with lots of advance orders, is selling briskly in stores, according to Andreescu.
Fans of Andreescu will be happy to know that her dog, Coco, makes an appearance in the book. The cinnamon-colored, five-pound, four-year-old toy poodle has a high profile and is a staple of television coverage. And also has more than 3,000 followers on Instagram. Is Coco more famous than her famous owner?
“Honestly, yeah,” Andreescu said, laughing. “But I’m not mad about it. She deserves it.”
Meditation, one the biggest pillars in her life, is also featured.
“I do it every day,” Andreescu said. “If I don’t meditate, then I’m kind of like not in the right headspace. I’ve developed this routine for myself, it’s like brushing my teeth, basically. It really gets me started for my day and helps me go to bed at night with a positive mindset.”
And that positivity, Andreescu wants you to know, is something she carries with her today – both on and off the court. She was anxious when she played her first match in Stuttgart but gradually found her footing and advanced to the quarterfinals in Rome before falling to World No.1 and eventual champion Iga Swiatek. This week, she earned her first career main-draw win at Wimbledon. Her main goals are to have fun and give the best of herself, regardless of the result.
“I know if I continue to do that, eventually things will fall into place,” she said. “So, yeah, I’m feeling really good. Doing things outside of tennis that I really enjoy. This is just another step of me hopefully contributing to change in people’s lives.”
She’s looking forward to reading her book to the kids in schools back in Ontario when the season is over. And maybe writing a sequel?
“I haven’t thought about that yet,” Andreescu said. “But I definitely want to do more in this book journey of mine.”