by Chuck Culpepper in New York
Upholding the premise that she possesses otherworldly guts, the 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu foiled both Serena Williams and a blaring Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd on Saturday at the U.S. Open, forging one breakthrough and thwarting another. She became the first Grand Slam singles champion from the flourishing tennis country of Canada, and she curbed Williams’s latest push for a 24th such title that would level her with Margaret Court atop the all-time chart.
Further, the Ontario-born daughter of Romanian immigrants spent the closing scenes of her 6-3, 7-5 win regathering herself on the fly amid pretty much the most harrowing turn a woman on court could face during these past 20 years: Williams blasting back from a deficit, in this case from 5-1 to 5-5. Then Andreescu dropped the curtain fittingly on her third match point, taking a 74-mph second serve and sending it screaming like the Canadian wind past Williams on her forehand wing.
“I told myself to put the g------ ball in the court,” Andreescu said of that last game, “and just breathe as much as I could because she was serving, first of all.”
Indeed Williams was serving, a specter that has caused causing many a quiver. But she directed in only two of six first serves that last game, lowering her dismal match-long, first-serve percentage of 44, and she saw her record in service games plummet to a shocking 5-6, quite apart from 51-3 in the first six rounds.
“All of it is, honestly, truly super frustrating,” Williams said of her fourth straight-sets loss in a Grand Slam final in the last two years. “I’m, like, so close, so close, so close, yet so far away. I don’t know what to say. I guess I got to keep going if I want to be a professional tennis player.”
All the while, as Andreescu posted 17 unforced errors to Williams’s 33, and as she fulfilled her game plan of making Williams play as many balls as possible, Andreescu had tweaked the perception of an occasion that came four weekends earlier: When the 37-year-old Williams retired against Andreescu after four games in the Rogers Cup final in Toronto, and when Andreescu walked over to console Williams while giving her the jock compliment “beast,” that setting clearly had featured two “beasts.”
The younger “beast” indicated as much on Saturday in her first Grand Slam final, against a player in her 33rd, by improving her record against top-10 players this year to 8-0. Her name readied to romp further up the rankings from No. 15 and into the top five, which counts as really something given she spent last New Year’s Day at No. 178. All this got real 12 months after Andreescu entered U.S. Open qualifying, then exited tepidly in one mere match.
“It’s crazy, man. I’ve been” — and then Andreescu lowered her head and started to cry, before continuing — “I’ve been dreaming of this moment for the longest time.”
She did all this in a setting that appeared tilted against her. The crowd rang with vehemence toward Williams but without hostility toward Andreescu from the moment it saw Williams on the video screen walking down the hallway toward the court. A stunning 20 years after Williams first appeared in a U.S. Open final, she walked out as a finalist in a futuristic setting, Andreescu wearing white earphones. The roof was open, the weather was pristine, and the clouds were puffy and harmless.
Then the first game told much. In it, Williams led 40-15, but Andreescu got her into to banging exchanges that led to two Williams errors.
“I think she was intimidated a little bit by it,” Andreescu said.
At deuce, Williams double-faulted, long twice. At break point, Williams double-faulted again, the first long, the second netted. The score went to 4-2 on serve from there, with an audience hungry for tennis history seeming to carry a sense of not again, considering Williams’s gathering collection of runner-up hardware since her return in 2018 from childbirth.
With Williams serving at 2-4, Andreescu submitted her to five break points, all of which Williams saved as she showed her own familiar reservoir of will to hold. Yet when Williams got to 3-4 and then got to her first break point in that next game, Andreescu seemed so rattled that she placed a 103-mph ace into the corner. She held, then broke Williams, the set bookended with Williams’s third of eight double faults.
Andreescu began playing without concern, and Williams began coming unglued. Andreescu hurried to a match point at 5-1, but Williams presented a beautiful forehand return.
Then: “I just couldn’t go down like that,” Williams would say.
“That’s what champions do,” Andreescu said of Williams’s comeback.
In the quirky construct of tennis, some players have home Grand Slams while most others do not, and so Andreescu would say: “I could barely hear myself think, really. It was really, really loud. But I guess that’s what makes this tournament so special. I’m sure it’s really nice for the Americans to come on that court.”
Noise cascaded. Andreescu covered her ears. Williams cleaned up her game, got close to airtight, and fought. Then, with a hold at 30 featuring two service winners and a break at 30 with ripped shots, Andreescu fought more. “I’ve really strived to be like her,” she said of Williams, “and who knows? Maybe I can be even better.”
Soon, her coach, Sylvain Bruneau joined her in the interview room for a trophy presentation.
“I’m not used to this,” he said, standing next to her.
“Well, get used to it,” she replied.
by Ava Wallace in Washington
Game, set, match: Bianca Andreescu wins, 6-3, 6-5
Andreescu, a 19-year-old who played in the U.S. Open’s main draw for the first time this year, beat Williams to become the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title on Saturday at the U.S. Open. Williams’ serve — the best the women’s game has ever seen — was off from the first game of the match and Andreescu showed both incredible mental strength and physical power throughout the afternoon. She lost one match point up 5-1 and unraveled for a time after that, but held on enough to win the match. Williams is now 0-4 in Grand Slam finals after returning from childbirth.
Second set: Williams pulls even at 5-5
Andreescu missed an easy backhand and Williams held on to even things out. Both players are extremely, and visibly, nervous right now.
Second set: Williams surges back, Andreescu leads 5-4
Williams saved one championship point and all of a sudden Andreescu’s ball striking doesn’t look so clean anymore. The pro-Williams crowd is getting into this one now.
Second set: Andreescu leads 4-1
Williams has gotten just 25 percent of her first serves in this set and Andreescu has won six of the last seven games to surge ahead.
Second set: Williams breaks back, Andreescu leads 2-1
Williams clipped a netcord on the final point of the game and with a little luck, broke back in the second set. Andreescu isn’t letting any ball go unreturned; Williams will have to raise her game to stay with the Canadian.
Second set: Andreescu breaks early again, leads 2-0
Williams’ service struggles continue. She double faulted at 0-40 to give Andreescu her first break of the second set.
First set: Andreescu wins, 6-3
Williams ended the set like she began it, with a rare bout of poor serving. The American double faulted on Andreescu’s set point and gave it to the teenager after an incredibly tense and competitive start to the match. Andreescu is showing no signs of slowing down and putting her power game on full display. Williams hasn’t played anyone like this throughout the tournament.
Andreescu had 12 winners and six errors in the first set.
First set: Williams holds and Andreescu leads, 4-3
Despite missing a lot of first serves, Williams saved five break points in the pivotal seventh game of the set to keep Andreescu from gaining a two-game lead. It’s early, but that might be the game of the match.
First set: Andreescu leads, 3-2
The Canadian is returning extremely well, and held serve to keep her lead. Williams won her first game with some huge forehands, big serves and loud screams but isn’t hitting her groundstrokes as on target as she was in her previous two matches.
First set: Bianca Andreescu breaks first, leads 2-0
After leading 40-15 in the first game, Andreescu took Williams to deuce and the American hit back-to-back double faults to give her the break. Andreescu held her first service game for an early lead.
Setting the scene:
Duchess Meghan is in the house sitting between Oracene Price, Serena’s mother, and Coach Patrick Mouratoglou, and Serena Williams started things off with an ace. Here we go.