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When Bianca Andreescu spurred a national celebration Saturday, beating U.S. legend Serena Williams at the U.S. Open to become Canada’s first Grand Slam singles champion, the 19-year-old’s former coach was watching closely, and said she could see exactly how much Andreescu has matured as a player.

“The heart and the passion really drive her. It was a pleasure to coach her and to see how a player plays when she’s 12, and to see how a player plays in a Grand Slam when she’s 19. I saw the whole thing,” said Lan Yao-Gallop, who coaches in Edmonton at the Saville Community Sports Centre and coached the Mississauga-born Andreescu in Tennis Canada’s national junior training program in Toronto for two years, beginning when Andreescu was 12.

The early mornings, all the drills, all the practices, the weekly coach meetings and the fitness sessions that established Andreescu’s technique and footwork — they all paid off, said Yao-Gallop

“She did it. We’re just very happy for her and the whole team,” said Yao-Gallop.

Harnessing her power

Andreescu was always a “brave,” aggressive player, who hit with power and wouldn’t wait for her opponent to make mistakes, remembered Yao-Gallop.

“But she couldn’t control her power. Mentally her focus level could be up and down. But now through the years that was a big difference. Now she still plays really big, but with really good control,” said Yao-Gallop

She still remembers Andreescu’s national championship match as a 13-year-old with a touch of deja-vu.

Andreescu was up 5-0 in the second set, and poised for the win. It was a lot like the U.S. Open championship match on Saturday, when Andreescu took the first set 6-3 and led 5-1 in the second before Serena Williams rallied to win four straight games. The momentum was on Williams’ side at that point.

Andreescu lost her lead and the under-14 championship title four years ago, but it was obvious during Saturday’s match that Andreescu was calm and in control of herself, said Yao-Gallop.

“She definitely comes through with a lot of maturity. It really showed a difference, a lot of maturity and resiliency.”

Andreescu won the next two games to become the first Canadian to win the title.

The difference between the win and the loss, said Yao-Gallop, is all in your head. The younger Andreescu that Yao-Gallop coached would sometimes get rattled. “The mental component is number one at the higher level — that’s what makes the difference. The mind will drive the legs,” said Yao-Gallop.

Ranked 152 in the world in January, Andreescu is now on a roll, having won the U.S. Open, the Canadian Open in August and the Indian Wells Masters in March. Yao-Gallop said she believes that if Andreescu stays healthy, she can win multiple grand slams.

And, Andreescu is a good ambassador for tennis, Yao-Gallop said, because she’s so humble and down-to-earth. For Yao-Gallop, who started playing tennis at eight years old, competed professionally for five years and has been coaching since 2005, Andreescu’s success is phenomenal.

“I’m just very happy for our sport to have somebody like that, and for me, I feel very fortunate to know her.”