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Canadian athletes cheering on Andreescu as teen prepares for U.S. Open final


Kia Nurse hasn't had to leave her New York apartment to find top-notch entertainment this week.

The Canadian basketball star, who plays for the New York Liberty of the WNBA, has found herself glued to the tube watching another big-name Canadian athlete perform in the city — Bianca Andreescu at the U.S. Open.

"She's playing on such a big stage with poise and confidence," Nurse said of the 19-year-old Andreescu, who has advanced to the U.S. Open final on Saturday against American legend Serena Williams.

"I love her grit and fight that constantly reminds fans and opponents to never count her out."

Nurse is far from the only Canadian athlete on the Bianca bandwagon.

Basketball hall of famer Steve Nash joined Nurse in recording a message on social media showing his support for Andreescu.

Some of Canada's hockey stars also have taken notice of Andreescu.

Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby, who hit the courts at Wimbledon for a practice session with American tennis player John Isner last year, says he keeps close tabs on the sport.

"I follow a lot of tennis, and obviously being Canadian, you're pretty proud of what she's been able to accomplish and the performances she's had," the 2010 Olympic Golden Goal scorer said at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour in Chicago.

"She's got a big final coming up, but there will be a lot of us cheering for her."

Montreal Canadiens winger Max Domi says he's a "huge" tennis fan.

"I used to play when I was a kid," Domi said. "She's been great for the sport, great for the country. We're all behind her. I've been lucky enough to meet her a couple times. She's a great kid. I'm really excited for her."

Andreescu is a big part of a busy Saturday schedule for Canadian sport.

Canada's men's soccer team takes on Cuba in a Nations League A match in Toronto. Los Angeles FC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, a 24-year-old who is back in his hometown for the match at BMO Field, says the soccer team is behind Andreescu.

"We know what she's doing and we're all proud of her," he said. "It's amazing to see a Canadian athlete take it to the next level and really put the country on the map and put herself on the map for her sport. So we're proud of her and we hope that she continues to do better things. Hopefully she'll win it all."

Three CFL games also are on Saturday's docket.

Not all CFL players will be cheering for Andreescu, however.

Ottawa Redblacks defensive back Chris Randle, whose team hosts the Toronto Argos on Saturday, grew up in California, just like Williams.

"I'm a big Serena fan and I just want to see her have success and add to her legacy," Randle said. "I appreciate what Bianca has done, though. It's great to see these two on this platform. It's the emergence of the young star against someone she probably looked up to and it's exciting to see how things will turn out."

Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Justin Medlock, an American, will take to the field for the annual Banjo Bowl against the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders at the exact same time as the Andreescu-Williams match starts. He says nationality isn't the key factor when making a prediction.

"I'm always going with Serena just because she's Serena. Everybody's for Serena," Medlock said. "It's like Tiger (Woods), you know. I'm going to pick Tiger over anybody.

"I don't know if it's a Canadian-American thing."

Bombers defensive back Kerfalla Exume, a Montreal native, plays tennis recreationally. He says Andreescu's run will help the sport in Canada.

"She's paving the way for all the other Canadians," Exume said. "Now they know that they can do the same thing if they work hard. ... She must have done a lot of work and dedication and put a lot of hours into practising to get there.

"It's good for the youth and the people who look up to her and want to be in her place. It gives them hope."

Edmonton Eskimos long snapper Ryan King, a native of the Alberta capital, likely will have to record the match as his team takes on the Calgary Stampeders three hours after the U.S. Open final begins.

"How special is that for her and her career at such a young age? It's the stuff you dream about,” King said. "As a professional athlete, you go through a lot of growing pains until you get to that championship calibre of play. It seems like she’s already done that.

"I've been able to watch a couple of her matches. I'm following along real close. We're proud as Canadians to see someone come up through the ranks so quickly and perform the way she has."

Vancouver Whitecaps striker Tosaint Ricketts' MLS team has the day off, so the Edmonton native figures to be rooting for Andreescu.

"Any time a Canadian athlete can step up and perform on the big stage, it's a big honour for all Canadians," he said.  

"Obviously she’s done extremely well to make it this far and to make history, which is amazing. I think she should just keep up the momentum and not be afraid of the GOAT."


— With files from Lori Ewing in Shanghai, China, Neil Davidson in Toronto, Joshua Clipperton in Chicago, Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver, Lisa Wallace in Ottawa, Judy Owen in Winnipeg and Robin Brownlee in Edmonton.

The Canadian Press

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