Bianca Andreescu scripted a U.S. Open fairytale in 2019 when she won the Grand Slam event as a teenager playing in the main draw for the first time.
If the Canadian were to repeat that script this year, it would be an even bigger shock.
Between her victory over Serena Williams in the 2019 final and a return to Flushing Meadows this week, Andreescu has managed just one win at the Grand Slam tournament - a first-round victory over Mihaela Buzarnescu at this year's Australian Open.
Andreescu's 2020 Grand Slam campaign was written off by injury and sickness that included everything from tearing the meniscus in her left knee to testing positive for COVID-19.
The run-up to the U.S. Open - a second-round loss in Montreal and a first-round exit in Cincinnati - offered few hints of a long stay in Flushing Meadows but Andreescu assures that progress is being made as she focuses on the long term.
"I got goosebumps when I walked onto Armstrong the first day," Andreescu told reporters in New York, referring to the court at Louis Armstrong Stadium at Flushing Meadows. "It just brought me back to 2019."
Andreescu added, "But I'm not the same person back then than what I am now. Taking so much time off, I feel like it helped me in many ways. But then getting into that competitive mindset, it kind of brought me back a little bit. I feel like that's also a reason why I haven't had the results I wanted."
Andreescu returns to the U.S. Open with a new attitude and a new coach in Sven Groeneveld, a former professional player, who has worked with past Grand Slam champions, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova.
The pair started officially working together this month. Andreescu said she is already seeing a difference on the court.
Andreescu added, "I know I'm going to get back to or get to where I want to be."
Barty mounts latest U.S. Open bid
World number one Ash Barty said she does not expect any "tricks" or "gremlins" on the U.S. Open's famed blue courts, after picking up five titles this year in a marathon, globe-trotting effort.
The 25-year-old Australian said on Friday that she did not even watch the U.S. Open in 2020, preferring instead to enjoy her time at home after skipping the major due to COVID-19 concerns during an 11-month absence from competition.
Now she is a favourite to win in Flushing Meadows despite never making it past the fourth round at the U.S. Open since making her main draw debut in 2013.
"There aren't any tricks or any gremlins in these courts," she told reporters. "We prepare as well as we can for our first round tactically against the opponent we're going to play and we try to go out there and execute."
Picking up her long dreamed of Wimbledon title last month and clinching the Western & Southern Open most recently would boost her confidence.
Her biggest stumble came at the Tokyo Olympics, where she suffered a shock exit in the first round against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo.
However remarkable her recent run, Barty insists her strategy hinges on a rather mundane approach: "Keeping it simple."
"It's enjoying my tennis, going out there and playing with freedom. It's being really clear with tactically how I want to play. Then it just comes down to execution."
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