TORONTO, August 12, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Before homegrown teenager Bianca Andreescu won the Rogers Cup title over an ailing Serena Williams Sunday afternoon in Toronto, she made history.
The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario, became the first Canadian in 50 years to make the Rogers Cup women’s final. Not since Canadians Faye Urban and Vicki Berber played in the 1969 final, won by Urban when the tournament was played on clay and called the Canadian Open, had there much for Canadians to celebrate in this annual WTA hard court tuneup for the United States Open.
It took Andreescu just 19 minutes to secure her maiden Rogers Cup crown. That’s because Williams retired after only four games, citing an upper back injury. The unseeded Andreescu led 3-1 when Williams was unable to resume after walking off the court with back spasms. Soon, Andreescu came over to console and converse with Williams, who was visibly upset. The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who is still in search of her first title of any kind since returning last year from maternity leave, sat crying in her chair and showed obvious signs of pain.
— WTA (@WTA) August 11, 2019
Court microphones picked up Andreescu telling Williams how much she admired the former World No. 1. Soon, both competitors shared a warm embrace and Andreescu managed to even get Williams to smile – albeit briefly.
“It’s not easy for Serena, for sure, to pull out, especially to pull out in a final,” said Andreescu during her news conference that followed her victory, quoted by the WTA website. “I know how she feels because I’ve done that many times in my short career. But sometimes you just have to listen to your body. And, yeah, it’s not the way I wanted to win, but a win is a win. So I’m really, really happy.”
During the trophy ceremony, a tearful Williams said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t do it today. … I tried but I just couldn’t do it.”
The 37-year-old Williams, ranked 10th and seeded eighth in Toronto, where she’s won the Rogers Cup three times – in 2001, 2011 and 2013 – was playing in her first event since she lost the Wimbledon final to Simona Halep. After playing four consecutive night matches, including a much-anticipated quarterfinal against Naomi Osaka, whom she lost to in the 2018 U.S. Open final, Sunday’s final was Williams’ first day match during the weeklong WTA Premier 5 tournament.
Williams explained her injury during a news conference afterward. “It started yesterday in my match and it just got worse,” she said. “Just my whole back just completely spasmed, and to a point where I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t really move.
“I don’t want to get this far and not at least try. I think I would have really regretted not at least going out there and seeing maybe if a miracle happened.”
Williams called Andreescu “a great girl. … That’s why I have always wanted to play her. She’s just a fabulous personality.”
Williams advanced to face Andreescu by beating Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, on Saturday evening just hours after the young Canadian defeated Sofia Kenin of the United States, 6-4, 7-6 (5). It prompted Andreescu to say, “For sure, there’s some pressure, but I have nothing to lose, really. I’m just going to try and stay in the present moment.”
After missing much of the past four months with a shoulder tear, Andreescu put together a memorable week in her home country that was characterized by a series of long matches – with wins over Top 20 players Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova – en route to compiling an impressive six-match winning streak. The Rogers Cup represented her second WTA Tour title of the year and of her budding career, following her win last March at Indian Wells. Andreescu thrived on the support of Canadian fans, who flocked to her Centre Court matches at York University all week long. Not counting her own retirements, Andreescu has won 17 consecutive matches.
“I would say that the win in Indian Wells was a hard-fought battle,” said Andreescu. “So I felt like it was a sweeter victory at the time. But this tournament is at home. I’ve dedicated so much hard work and sweat on that tennis court and in this gym, so this tournament is definitely ten times more special.”
Currently ranked No. 27, Andreescu will move up to No. 14 in the new WTA Tour Rankings on Monday after her impressive run of form in Toronto. Her game is definitely headed in the right direction with the start of the U.S. Open just two weeks away.