By David Shoup
This month’s WTA finals will see Romanian trained tennis champion hopefuls entering the court with high worldwide rankings.
From October 28th to November 3rd in Shenzhen, China, Romanian Simona Halep and Canadian-Romanian Bianca Andreescu, but rising superstars in international tennis.
A string of Romanian victories in the sport has left fans and critics across the world asking the same question: what’s up with Romania?
The interest began with the rise of 27 year old Halep of Constanta, who took home the 2019 Wimbledon Championships in July, beating sports legend Serena Williams.
“It’s unbelievable. Not just the victory but the way that she plays,” said Halep’s new coach Daniel Dobre, speaking to reporters at Wimbledon. “It wasn’t Serena playing bad, because Serena also played unbelievably. She (Halep) won the match by herself.”
Speaking to WTA Tennis shortly after her win, Halep reflected on the challenge of competing at the highest level on a different surface than she’s accustomed to training on.
“It was tough to believe because we don’t even have a court, grass court, in Romania. That’s something far. But I knew if we be patient and if we work hard, we get the feeling of the grass court.”
Romanian players are letting results speak for themselves when it comes to the quality of coaching, training and the individual athlete over the type of court they use.
Not missing a beat, Canadian Bianca Andreescu went on to take the 2019 US open last month, also beating Serena Williams. Beginning the year with a placement of 152, nineteen year old Andreescu is now closing out the season as the 5th top ranked tennis player worldwide. Though born in Canada, Andreescu moved back to Romania, her parents home country, as a child. It was there in Pitesti that she first began playing tennis at the age of 7.
Alexandru Grigore has been the director of As Club Politehnica for seven years and says he has witnessed firsthand the rise in excitement generated for tennis in Romania’s capital since even before the Wimbledon win.
“The Wimbledon win was big, but we’ve been seeing more and more interest from young people in tennis since Simona reached the number one worldwide ranking last year,” Grigore said from his club’s ten court property on Strada Alexandru Ivasiuc. In winter time, bubble covers allow for five courts to remain operational through the snowy months.
Grigore’s As Club boasts budding competitors as young as four, with youth members (more than 75 of them in total) participating in up to ten regional and national tournaments each year. He mentioned Filip Jianu and Ionel David Nicholas as future break out players to keep an eye out for in major tournaments down the road.
“This year, some of our kids are in the top ten for the 12 and 14 year old leagues, boys and girls,” Grigore said proudly. Although the club’s primary goal is to help these young Romanians reach their full potential and become the next Halpes and Andreescus, the club also offers tennis practice and amateur fun for adult players, with more than 50 members ranging from retired pros down to newcomers to the sport.
As with many areas for improvement in Romania, sports being relatively low on the lost, Grigore suggests that government funding would go a long way towards producing more Simona Haleps, who, along with Ilie Nastase thirty years prior, bring positive attention and reputation to Romanian athletics. He points to Canada as a good model for developing regional camps that can foster local talent.
“For younger players that are up in the top 10 or top 5 rankings, the national federation should have a tracking or funding program to help them out so they can have support for development, equipment, training and coaching,” Grigore said. “The main problem for good players in Romania is there is no strategy for them to climb up step by step to the ATA or WTA.”
But Grigore closed with an optimistic note, predicting that with improved planning over the next decade, Romania will be well on its way to producing another top ranked global tennis champion.