NEW YORK, September 7, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
After Bianca Andreescu advanced to her first Grand Slam final by forgetting how to lose, beating Belinda Bencic, 7-6 (3), 7-5, on Thursday night in the semifinals of the United States Open, she spoke in revealing tones. And, like most 19-year-olds these days, she was open and honest about her feelings.
“I’ve always dreamt of this moment ever since I was a little kid,” the Canadian wunderkind said during her post-match press conference. “But I don’t think many people would have actually thought that it would become a reality.”
On Saturday, Andreescu will oppose 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams, 37, who is in hot pursuit of her seventh US Open singles title and also has her sights set on tying the all-time record for Grand Slam singles titles set by Australian Margaret Court in 1973 that’s held steady for 46 years.
When Williams won her first Grand Slam title 20 years ago as a 17-year-old at the US Open in 1999, Andreescu wasn’t even born. Now, as the Mississauga, Ontario, native has advanced to the final in her US Open main draw debut, it’s easy enough to turn the clock back a year, at a time when she was ranked outside the Top 200 and lost in the first round of qualifying. As her star continues to rise, she’s become the second player from her country to reach a Grand Slam final following Eugenie Bouchard, who made the final of Wimbledon in 2014.
Asked why everything has fallen into place during this New York City fortnight, Andreescu revealed, “I just kept believing in myself.
“But I think that moment after the match (point won), I was just in shock.”
Indeed, the TV cameras zoomed in on Andreescu as she kept repeating “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” while looking toward her player’s box, where her parents, Nicu and Maria, and her coach, Sylvain Bruneau, were celebrating. While there may have been disbelief on her face, deep down in her heart, there was a feeling of happiness – maybe relief, too.
“At the same time, I fought really hard to get to this point, so I really think I deserve to be in the finals on Saturday.”
After eking out a first-set tie-break against Bencic, Andreescu fought back from a double-break, down 1-4 in the second set, and went to work, winning the last five games of the match. It earned for Andreescu one of her biggest victories of the year if not in her career. It wasn’t easy – it took two hours and 12 minutes of hard-fought play to pull it off – but the payoff is most rewarding.
Andreescu was asked by a reporter where her sense of fearlessness comes from. She replied: “I really don’t know how to answer that. I think it’s just inside of me somehow. I think it’s just my passion for the game, as well. I don’t like to lose, so I just try my best every match.”
Regardless of how well she plays in Saturday’s final, does Andreescu realistically have a chance against Williams? Well, there’s some unfinished business. In their only prior meeting, in the Rogers Cup final at Toronto last month, it ended unexpectedly when Williams was forced to retire due to an upper back injury, while trailing 3-1. It was the second title of the year for Andreescu that followed lifting the trophy at Indian Wells in March. So, it will be interesting to see how each player will fare over the course of a full match.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2019
During a press conference Friday afternoon, Serena’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou was asked what he makes of Andreescu’s game. He said, “She has the whole package. Like the game’s amazing, I think: the physical, the athleticism, and the mental.
“She looks incredibly confident. She feels like she’s where she belongs. That’s the impression she gives.”
Thursday night, after Williams won the first semifinal against fifth seed Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 6-1, to reach her 10th US Open final, she was asked what she’s learned about Andreescu. “She really knows how to mix up the game and play different shots in different ways. Above all, I just like her as a person. She’s amazing,” said Williams, who has dropped just one set all tournament.
And what does Andreescu think about facing Williams, who is arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time? “I remember always telling my team I would have always wanted to play (Williams) right before she retires,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to it. She’s an amazing champion on and off the court. It’s going to be fun.
“I remember watching her when I was about 10. I watched her win most of her Grand Slam titles. … I’m sure she’s going to bring her A-game. I’m going to try to bring my A-game, too. Hopefully, I guess, may the best player win.”
By the numbers
• Serena Williams, holder of the Open Era record of 23 Grand Slam singles titles, would tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 by winning the 2019 US Open. Meanwhile, Bianca Andreescu is bidding to win her first Grand Slam title in just her fourth Grand Slam main draw, a feat that’s been previously accomplished only by Monica Seles at Roland Garros in 1990.
• At age 19, Bianca Andreescu is the first teenager to play in a US Open final since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009. However, she’s the second teenager this year following Marketa Vondrousova’s run to the Roland Garros final to play in a Grand Slam final. Andreescu is vying to be the first teenage Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 US Open, and at 19 years and two months the youngest since Svetlana Kuznetsova at the 2004 US Open.
• Serena Williams is currently tied with Chris Evert for both the Open Era total of US Open singles trophies (six) as well as US Open match victories (101). Should Williams beat Andreescu in Saturday’s final, she would take over sole possession of first place.
• At 18 years and 263 days, this year’s US Open final between Serena Williams, 37, and Bianca Andreescu, 19, represents the biggest age gap in a women’s Grand Slam singles final in the Open Era.
What they’re writing
Simon Briggs, The Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk) tennis writer, from “I want to be social, but love means nothing in the sport,” on Bianca Andreescu:
“If there is one word that sums up Bianca Andreescu it is ‘sassy’. She may be only 19 – and playing in the main draw of the US Open for the first time – but Andreescu is already strolling around Flushing Meadows with her shoulders pulled back and her smile on full beam.
“Self-belief is contagious. Andreescu looks utterly confident that she can win the US Open, and now everyone else is beginning to think so, too. Including ESPN commentator John McEnroe, who said last week: ‘She’s one of the best young competitors I’ve seen in 10 years.’
“If you are thinking “Bianca who?” you are not alone. This young woman has arrived in a hurry – like a tennis version of Mary Poppins descending from the sky.”
What they’re tweeting
Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg), New York Times tennis correspondent, quoting Billie Jean King on Serena Williams: “It would be great if she won this and then broke the record in Australia. That’s my prayer.” – Billie Jean King, on ESPN, wants Serena to take down Margaret Court at Court’s place. #USOpen
Saturday’s order of play
At Arthur Ashe Stadium
Mixed doubles final, 1 p.m.
No. 1 Hao-Ching Chan/Michael Venus vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands/Jamie Murray
Women’s singles final, 4 p.m.
No. 8 Serena Williams vs. No. 15 Bianca Andreescu