Bianca Andreescu didn’t have your usual teenage diary.
Sure, the outside might be relatable, with its stained, fluffy purple cover. In the words of her then coach through Tennis Canada, Cristophe Lambert, it was “absolutely disgusting,” and he says it with the passion of a Parisian who knows beauty when it’s in front of him.
What Lambert appreciated about the book was its contents, and how they translated to Andreescu’s tennis at the tender age of 14. Andreescu game planned for opponents in her diary, and when they travelled for a tournament in North Carolina, Lambert saw everything she’d laid out come to life on the court.
“I was impressed that she was able to, at this stage, follow a game plan which wasn’t just where to put the ball in the court, it was more complicated [than that],” Lambert says. “She was really able to follow her game plan which is a great talent. I would like her to come back to this type of thing where she’s got her game plan, a really good idea of how she wants to play, and she implements what she has been discussing, what she has been writing.”
Lambert is now back as Andreescu’s coach, he stepped into the role a month after she parted ways with veteran Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld. One of the biggest things Andreescu felt was missing from her game was the feel she had from a very young age. Going back to the coach from her teenage years is an effort to tap back into that.
“He’s super fun and easy to work with. We get along on and off the court, he always keeps it fun and has a lot of great insight,” Andreescu says. “My goal is to go back to my roots and he’s really bringing me back to how I used to play. I feel like the last few years I’ve kind of been all over the place just trying to figure out what’s really good for me. I definitely feel like I’m back to where I want to be.”
The two pass tactics back-and-forth just as easily as movie and book recommendations. Lambert, 57, has far different taste than the 22-year-old Andreescu, but that makes for some fun exchanges, like when he brought up the classic movie Shawshank Redemption and Andreescu had no idea what he was talking about. These little moments allow Lambert to reminisce about, in his own words, the “stupid idiot” he was at 22 and remind himself that it’s only natural she wouldn’t know something she didn’t grow up with.
Lambert and Andreescu play some football or soccer before drills, and even the tennis drills bring some interesting twists. Andreescu may to hit specific spots on the court or lose the point, for example, all while physio Jean-Pierre Bruyere is ordered to actively cheer against her. She enjoys all of it, knowing herself well enough to admit this is the type of creativity that helps her keep engaged, focused and energised for a daily routine that could otherwise become mundane very quickly.
One of the focuses currently for Lambert is to have her be “lighter” in the way she reacts to mistakes. For the coach, a mistake is just a piece of information to be used in order to do things better. He feels Andreescu’s lack of matches has contributed to her not being as assured in her decision-making as in the past, and so continuing to evolve that mindset is a work in progress.
Keeping a lighter mood in practice and getting back to feeling like herself are big priorities for Andreescu, but a big part of why she wanted Lambert back was the comfort she feels in discussing her mental health with him. Andreescu wanted a coach with whom she could about more than just tennis.
“I know that he’s always such a fun person to be around, kind and compassionate,” Andreescu says. “He’s very open to my mental health journey, so if I need to talk to him about something, I can go to him with open arms. I just remembered how much of a good time I had with him and I also had some good results.”
Even though Lambert was far removed from Canada, having taken a coaching role with Tennis New Zealand before advancing to the position of high-performance director, the two kept in regular contact. Through the ups and the downs, Lambert messaged to keep tabs on her well-being, but he never really got into the minutia of her tennis out of respect to the people working with her at the time.
When asked why it was important to him to put in an effort to keep Andreescu’s spirits up when times were tough even when he wasn’t her coach, Lambert’s answer is straightforward.
“Not as a coach, as a human,” he says. “I have a son, too, it’s not that I don’t know what kids go through in this period of time which is really complicated. I would say it’s a priority for her to be really happy and that’s always what we try to find out about and help her in any way for her to be the most relaxed.”
It has been a tough road for Andreescu after a dream 2019 run that saw her win at Indian Wells, what was then known as the Rogers Cup in Toronto, and the U.S. Open. A combination of injuries, the pandemic, and a loss of form saw her play just 64 matches between 2020 and 2022. For some perspective, World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, played 141 matches during the same span.
That extended absence from the court meant there was plenty of time for Andreescu’s thoughts to wander, sometimes to dark places. After dealing with her share of struggles, she started working to build a mental health routine to get in the right headspace on a daily basis. She now meditates daily, does visualisation exercises, goes on hikes to connect with nature, and also immerses herself in charity work.
She also worked with Modern Health, a leading global workplace mental health platform that became the official mental health partner of the WTA at the end of March last year. As part of the partnership, the WTA launched a series on YouTube where its athletes share their self-care tips and experiences in finding the best mental space and coping with pressure. Andreescu’s episode airs in May.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Andreescu says, reflecting on her journey the last few years. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot even in the past two months about myself, which is such a great thing about life, you’re constantly growing, you’re constantly learning. The main thing is I want to be able to feel good in my own skin whether I win a match or lose a match.”
Andreescu got to Indian Wells a couple weeks ago, renting out a home where her parents and beloved poodle Coco are staying with her. She has been rising early for her mental health routine before preparing her favourite meal of the day, breakfast. It’s usually avocado toast for her but she keeps poached eggs, yogurt parfaits and acai bowls in the rotation.
On the court, she has doubled her workload since she arrived in California. Lambert explained that Bruyere feels she’s handling the challenges very well. She has in fact spent more time working out than she has on the court, all with the belief that if she’s feeling great physically, it will boost her mentally.
For all the practice, nothing beats playing matches with real stakes. As Lambert says, Andreescu can have terrible practices but no matter what there will be a fighter when the bright lights are on. She will need all the fight she can find to get back to where she once was, and perhaps a new diary with the best game plan possible. Unlike other sports, there isn’t a guaranteed slate of games on the WTA calendar. In tennis, every week, it’s win or go home.
“I am feeling very motivated, very inspired because I’ve won the tournament before,” Andreescu says. “I’m very comfortable with the courts and conditions, feeling healthy, happy and ready to win.”