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Road to recovery: Bianca Andreescu's 15-month absence featured many twists and turns

Just over a month after winning the U.S. Open in September 2019, things changed in a big way for Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu.

Just over a month after winning the U.S. Open in September 2019, things changed in a big way for Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu.

A knee injury suffered in October 2019 began a 15-month inactive stretch that is set to end when Andreescu plays her first match at the Australian Open, which starts Monday (Sunday night in Canada).

Here is a look at what's transpired for Andreescu since the day she hurt her left knee in China:

Oct. 30, 2019: Andreescu is eliminated from championship contention at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China when she retires from a match against Karolina Pliskova with a knee injury. 

Oct. 31, 2019: Andreescu withdraws from the WTA Finals prior to her final round-robin match against Elina Svitolina. 

"It's the last tournament of the season," Andreescu said. "You want to go all out, but stuff happens. You just got to take a step back, re-evaluate. That's what I did. I think this is the best decision for me right now.''

Nov. 4, 2019: Andreescu's coach Sylvain Bruneau says he hopes the injury will not affect off-season training. No exact details of her injury are released.

"We're seeing a few doctors now and it looks like she's going to need some time off and she's going to need rehab,'' Bruneau said. "But it seems like it will hopefully be under control and it's not going to be something that's going to be too serious. So hopefully that's the case.''

Dec. 9, 2019: Andreescu is named the unanimous winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's athlete of the year. She's the first tennis player to win the award.

Dec. 10, 2019: Andreescu says she's hopeful the knee injury will not hamper the start of her 2020 season.

"Well I don't need surgery so I wouldn't say it's very bad,'' she said. "I can't really say much about it. I'm just trying to rehab as much as possible and stay as positive as I can.''

Dec. 11, 2019: Google says Andreescu was the top trending Canadian in 2019. She's also named the WTA Tour's top newcomer of the year.

Dec. 24, 2019: Andreescu withdraws from the season-opening ASB Classic in New Zealand, a tournament in which she broke through to reach the final the previous season.

Dec. 26, 2019: Andreescu wins the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as CP's female athlete of the year.

Jan. 11, 2020: Andreescu withdraws from the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season.

"The Australian Open is unfortunately too soon in my rehab process and I sadly will not be able to play in it this year,'' Andreescu said. "It was a very tough decision to make as I love to play in Melbourne but I have to respect the recuperation plan for my knee and body.''

Jan. 28, 2020: Andreescu is named to Canada's Fed Cup team for a tie against Switzerland the following week, raising hopes for her return.

Feb. 7-8, 2020: Andreescu doesn't end up playing in a loss to Switzerland. She was tabbed to play doubles, but Switzerland clinched the tie before the fifth rubber.

March 7, 2020: Andreescu withdraws from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., site of her first career WTA Tour tournament win a year earlier. However, the 2020 edition ends up being cancelled later in the month because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 26, 2020: Andreescu makes one of her first appearances of the year for the public in a televised benefit in support of Canadian front-line workers during the pandemic.

May 22, 2020: Andreescu is placed on the entry list for the Credit One Bank Invitational in June in Charleston, S.C., an event created with the WTA Tour on hiatus during the pandemic.

June 17, 2020: Andreescu tweets in support of the United States Tennis Association's drive to hold the U.S. Open during the pandemic. She says she plans to make the most of her chance to return to the court and to reconnect with fellow players.

June 23, 2020: Andreescu withdraws from the Credit One Bank Invitational.

Aug. 4, 2020: Andreescu is placed on the initial entry list for the U.S. Open.

Aug. 13, 2020: Andreescu withdraws from the U.S. Open, denying her a chance to defend her title.

"I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,'' Andreescu said in a statement.

"The U.S. Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss ... being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the COVID pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at the highest level.''

Sept. 19, 2020: Andreescu's agent confirms she will not play in the French Open, the season's final Grand Slam.

Sept. 22, 2020: Andreescu announces she will take the rest of the season off to focus on her health and training.

"As hard as it was to come to this conclusion, I have so much to look forward to in 2021, including the Olympics,'' Andreescu said. "I want to use this time to focus my game so I can come back stronger and better than ever.''

Oct. 28, 2020: A video clip posted by Andreescu shows her training on an outdoor clay court, moving without limitation and without injury tape on her joints. Bruneau later confirms she has been training in Monte Carlo.

Nov. 10, 2020: Andreescu says she plans to return for the WTA Tour's Australian swing in late January.

"Being away from the court for so long has not been easy for me but I am excited to share that I will be returning to the court in 2021, starting with the Australian swing and the Australian Open,'' Andreescu said. "I am feeling really good about the progress I've made during my time off, and I'm ready to get back to competing and doing what I love.''

Dec. 23, 2020: Andreescu posts a picture of her training in Dubai, but she does not compete in the tour's season-opening event in the United Arab Emirates in January.

Jan. 11, 2021: Andreescu's agency says she will make her return at the Melbourne Summer Series later in the month.

Jan. 16, 2021: Bruneau announces he has tested positive for COVID-19 after the flight to Melbourne. Andreescu's agent says the player was starting a 14-day hard quarantine at her hotel after Bruneau's result. More than 45 other players were in the same situation after two affected flights.

Feb. 2, 2021: Andreescu pulls out of the Grampians Trophy, a tune-up for players emerging from hard quarantine, saying she'll make her return at the Australian Open.

Feb. 4, 2021: Andreescu says she is physically and mentally ready to return to competitive play for the first time in 15 months at the Australian Open. She says she suffered a torn meniscus in October 2019. Andreescu will face Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the first round.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021.

The Canadian Press