Although the Romanian-Canadian community in Toronto is a relatively small one, at Rogers Cup 2019, their vibrant presence is definitely felt.
With the nation’s top tennis star Simona Halep and Canada’s break out star Bianca Andreescu of Romanian decent both having advanced to the quarter-finals, Romanian pride across the City Friday was in high gear.
“I was at work today and I thought it’s Friday, I think I’m going to call in early and come see my girl Bianca,” said Andreescu fan Razvan Rimniceanu. “I called my nephew and asked if he liked tennis and wanted to come down and watch Bianca in the quarter-finals and he said, ‘Of course.’ Everyone loves Bianca.”
Sitting in the upper level of Sobeys Stadium with his 21-year-old nephew Trevor Garfinkle on Friday, the pair let out exuberant shouts of “Let’s go Bianca” during breaks in play throughout the match.
Bedecked in the blue, yellow and red colours of the Romanian flag, the pair wore their national pride on their chests. When asked if Bianca’s Romanian heritage was a motivating factor in drawing them to the tournament Friday afternoon, the answer was pretty clear.
“Obviously,” Rimniceanu said laughing. “Bianca was born in Canada, but she’s been to Romania. We see ourselves in her. I also used to play sports growing up so I can really connect with her.”
The 46-year-old immigrated to Canada in 1989 from Bucharest, Romania when he was 16 years old, just a few months before the Romanian revolution. He now works in security and coaches kids’ soccer and says for him, showing support to Romanian athletes is imperative.
“It’s a small country so we’ve got to make ourselves heard especially in tennis,” said Rimniceanu. “We’ve had some talented players over the years. We like to stand behind them and support them as much as we can.”
With Simona Halep’s retirement from her quarter-final match against Marie Bouzkova Friday night, there will be but one athlete of direct Romanian heritage in the semi-finals. As for what an Andreescu Rogers Cup victory would mean to his community, for Rimniceanu, it would be a win win situation.
“If Bianca take the title it’s a double whammy,” said Rimniceanu. “She’s Romanian and Canadian. We’re Romanian and Canadian so that would be incredible.”
More important than having roots in the eastern European nation, Rimniceanu says being the first Canadian woman in five decades to reach the Rogers Cup semi-finals should bring Andreescu fans of all backgrounds into the stadium in droves.
“We have something that is ground breaking here,” said Rimniceanu. “She’s the first Canadian woman in a long time to get this far, so I think we all gotta come out and support.”