WASHINGTON, December 10, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
Editor’s note: The 2019 tennis season will be remembered for several new faces who emerged on both the ATP and WTA tours, such as Bianca Andreescu, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ashleigh Barty, Daniil Medvedev and Coco Gauff.
Today, Tennis TourTalk begins a series of off-season features that highlight the breakout stars of the ATP and WTA tours, beginning with Bianca Andreescu of Canada.
Bianca Andreescu began her remarkable run to her first Grand Slam title at the United States Open on Court 10 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center last August with a late afternoon, straight-set win over U.S. junior champion Katie Volynets. She ended her journey on Arthur Ashe Stadium a fortnight later before a loud, sold-out audience with a confident forehand return on match point that stunned 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams – and the tennis world – to become the US Open champion in her first Grand Slam final.
The final score line reflected that the poised – and at times brash – 19-year-old Canadian wunderkind defeated the 37-year-old American and greatest female tennis player of all time, 6-3, 7-5, in one hour and 40 minutes. The 15th seed Andreescu won on her third championship point opportunity – becoming the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam title – and when she was asked why everything fell into place, in her inimitable spirit Andreescu revealed, “I just kept believing in myself.”
Indeed, and as British tennis writer Simon Briggs wrote in The Telegraph: “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. …
“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.”
Andreescu’s incredible feat left many asking: Is she the Newcomer of the Year, the Most Improved Player of the Year or, simply, the Player of the Year? Or, maybe all three? As it happened, the Mississauga, Ontario, native who began the season ranked 152nd in the world finished the year ranked No. 5 – becoming the highest-ranked Canadian player in WTA Tour history. She earned a place in the WTA Finals field, won by World No. 1 Ash Barty. So, if you concede Player of the Year honors to Barty, that leaves Andreescu as a bonafide Newcomer of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year. Take your pick or pick both. She showed she’s very deserving.
Both against Williams and in most of her matches this year, Andreescu played with a fearless demeanor and comported herself well. She played focused tennis and by the end of the year reaped some nice rewards. Although she was forced to withdraw from the WTA Finals during group play because of a recurrence of her shoulder injury, it took nothing away from Andreescu’s solid year.
Andreescu’s breakthrough season, which began when she lifted the championship trophy at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March and continued in August as she won the Rogers Cup in Toronto, in her home country, culminated with her improbable victory over the six-time US Open champion Williams. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among many who tweeted congratulations to Andreescu after she lifted her first Grand Slam trophy at the US Open.
Former US Open champion and Hall of Fame great Lindsay Davenport recalled on Tennis Channel how she was impressed with Andreescu’s ability to find a way to win. “I was so impressed, not only with how Andreescu was able to start the (US Open) match but also with how she was able to finish it. It’s not easy when a 5-1 lead in the second (set) all of a sudden gets to 5-all. She was able to reset and refocus. She started this tournament out on Court 10 and ended it on Ashe with a forehand return to become champion. It’s a remarkable run for her.”
When Andreescu was asked to sum up her feelings during the US Open trophy ceremony after the biggest tennis moment of her young life and career, she said, “It’s so hard to explain in words, but I’m beyond grateful and truly blessed. I’ve worked really, really hard for this moment, I can’t complain. This year has been a dream come true, and now, being able to play on this stage against Serena, a true legend of this sport, is amazing.”
This year proved a long journey for Andreescu and despite a shoulder injury that sidelined her throughout the entire European clay and English grass-court campaigns during the spring and early summer, she remained positive and upbeat and lost just four completed matches during the entire season, finishing with a 48-7 win-loss record including injury retirements. At one point in her breakthrough campaign, Andreescu owned a 17-match winning streak – longest of the year – and was 8-0 against Top 10-ranked players. She trended on Twitter with the hashtag #SheTheNorth.
— Costa Kladianos (@Costa_Klad) September 9, 2019
Looking back, Andreescu’s US Open performance was both rewarding and it made history, too. Among some of the many history-making numbers for the Canadian after winning the 2019 US Open:
• First Canadian player to win a major singles title in the Open Era.
• First Grand Slam title in just fourth major appearance, which tied with Monica Seles for fewest appearances.
• First teen to win a major since Maria Sharapova won the 2006 US Open at age 19.
• Youngest woman to win a major title since the 2004 US Open by Svetlana Kuznetsova.
While Andreescu enjoyed an inspirational 2019 on the tennis court – where she forgot how to lose – off it she was inspired by the work of Yellow Brick House in Ontario, Canada, which provides shelter and counseling for women and children fleeing violent homes.
“It’s been a crazy couple of months for me – I’ve played my best tennis – and now I’ve had a chance to come back home and visit my favorite charity, the Yellow Brick House,” Andreescu said in a video produced by the WTA Tour. “I’m so grateful to be here and have an opportunity to have a voice and to help make other people aware of this terrible problem that’s happening.
“It’s been incredible for me to have a voice in this campaign. … If I can do my job to show the world what this charity can do – and if it helps many people, which I’m sure it will – then I’m doing a really good job.”
Finally, on Monday, Andreescu wrote more history by becoming the first tennis player to earn the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year. She was voted the recipient unanimously by a panel of Canadian sports media. It’s a fitting bookend to Andreescu’s breakout year that was very much real life.