It was a love-love match between tennis star Bianca Andreescu and her hometown of Mississauga on Sunday evening as several thousand residents turned out in front of city hall to welcome the newly crowned U.S. Open champion back.
To chants of “Bi-An-Ca! Bi-An-Ca!” the smitten crowd and a stage full of dignitaries paid tribute to the 19-year-old court queen after she became the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam tennis championship when she defeated the legendary Serena Williams in the tournament final last Saturday.
“Bianca we are so proud of you and your achievements and your big U.S. win,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told the cheering crowd, which came out despite threatening skies that let out an occasional drizzle during the two-hour rally.
“Your most graceful and modest approach toward embracing your successes has embodied the values of both Mississauga, Ontario and Canada.”
Crombie awarded the young star a golden key to her city and unveiled a street sign — Andreescu Way — that will adorn a road in a new development.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau — who coupled the tribute to Andreescu with some election glad handing with the crowd — called 2019 Rogers Cup winner an inspiration to young Canadians.
“Bianca, how extraordinary: her skill, her determination, her perseverance,” Trudeau shouted to the audience, which greeted him with far more cheers than boos.
“But mostly that incredible grace and composure under extraordinary pressure. She’s the embodiment of the fact that young people are not the leaders of tomorrow, they are leaders today.”
Youngster Praneeth Pichika, who captured the Ontario Tennis Association under-10 championship this year, came with his family to cheer on his freshly-minted hero.
“We’re proud of her,” said Pichika, who was disappointed in his hope that Andreescu would bring her ornate U.S. Open trophy with her.
Now 10, Pichika said Andreescu gave him the inspiration to try for the men’s version of that chalice in the future.
Anahita Behpour, who was pressed against the stage-front fence in the city’s Celebration Square, said she was proud of the player’s achievements.
“We just wanted to come out and show how much we admire her,” said Behpour, 17, holding a Bianca I (heart) you sign with her friend, Saman Saeidi.
For her part, Andreescu was enraptured with the crowd and thanked her city, province, country and Tennis Canada.
“Wow, this is crazy, this is crazy,” she said, after quipping that she hoped to stay upright on fairly precarious set of heels.
“I never thought I’d have my own (rally) before let alone a key to the city and a street named after me. I love you.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who was invited to speak at the neighbouring town’s event, announced that council had declared Monday Bianca Andreescu Day in his city.
“She (Andreescu) is a national champion, she’s Canada’s champion, she’s the GTA’s champion,” Tory said at the rally.
“And Toronto is very pleased and proud to be part of paying tribute to her great win.”
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Tory added that Andreescu’s U.S. Open victory may have been the greatest individual sports achievement in the country’s history, but that the champion accompanied her win with grace and humility.
“It isn’t about the winning on the court, that was magnificent, but it is about how she handled the win,” he said.
“I think we saw in the aftermath of her winning that she was somebody that all Canadians would want to represent us.”