Getty Images

Bianca Andreescu beats Serena Williams in U.S. Open final; record denied again

7 Comments

NEW YORK — For Serena Williams, history must wait again. For Bianca Andreescu, it might just be starting.

The Canadian 19-year-old went toe-to-toe with the legend for a 6-3, 7-5 win in the U.S. Open final.

Andreescu, ranked 208th a year ago, became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen champ since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

“It’s been a really long journey,” said Andreescu, the daughter of Romanian immigrants who was born after Williams won the first of her 23 Slams in 1999. “Maybe not so long. I’m only 19.”

Williams, one shy of Margaret Court‘s record 24 Slams, was swept in a major final for the fourth straight time since returning from life-threatening September 2017 childbirth.

“I love Bianca. I think she’s a great girl. But I think this was the worst match I’ve played all tournament,” said Williams, who said she could not find her first serve (getting just 44 percent in), quite arguably the greatest weapon in the sport’s history. “It’s inexcusable for me to play at that level.

“I believe I could have just been more Serena today. I honestly don’t think Serena showed up. I have to kind of figure out how to get her to show up in Grand Slam finals.”

Williams played some of her better tennis in the first set after being broken in the opening game. She unraveled in the second before battling back from 1-5 down.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, more than 20,000, became so loud that Andreescu covered her ears. She steadied at 5-all, holding serve and then breaking Williams for the sixth time for the title.

“I know you guys wanted Serena to win, so I’m sorry,” Andreescu said in a proudly Canadian sentiment. “I could barely hear myself think.”

For Williams, at 37, every chance is more crucial than the last to tie Court. Williams, whose coach deemed her fitter than at any point post-pregnancy, is still seeking her first title of any kind as a mom.

“I’m, like, so close, so close, so close, yet so far away,” said Williams, who won her first Slam here in 1999 and debuted in doubles in 1998, after taking physics and algebra II exams. “I’m not necessarily chasing a record. I’m just trying to win Grand Slams.”

Andreescu was seeded 15th here, but she was among the handful of favorites coming in. She had not lost a completed match in six months. The stat was a bit deceiving, since Andreescu missed the French Open and Wimbledon following a rotator cuff tear.

But she won her last tune-up event in Toronto, when she was up 3-1 on Williams in the final before the American retired with back spasms. She is 8-0 against top-10 players in 2019.

Zoom out, and Andreescu’s run is more surprising. She played just three prior Grand Slam main draws and never made it past the second round. She came here last year ranked 208th and lost in the first round of qualifying.

Then Andreescu spent the fall playing lower-level events in Florence (South Carolina, not Italy), Lawrence and Norman to get her 2018 year-end ranking up to 178.

“I was going through a lot of injuries, but I persevered,” she said. “I told myself to never give up.”

Andreescu broke out to start 2019, going through qualifying to reach the final of an Australian Open tune-up. In March, she won Indian Wells, often labeled the sport’s fifth major. She hasn’t lost a completed match in four tournaments since.

She won the biggest of them all on Saturday, becoming the first Canadian man or woman to lift a Slam singles trophy. She had pictured playing a final against her idol Williams since her junior days.

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment for the longest time,” Andreescu said. “I’ve been visualizing it almost every single day.”

MORE: Roger Federer undecided on Olympics

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Too early to say whether virus threatens Olympics, WHO says

Getty Images
2 Comments

GENEVA (AP) — Despite a virus outbreak spreading from China, a top World Health Organization official said Tuesday it’s much too soon to say whether the Tokyo Olympics are at risk of being cancelled or moved.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly said they have no contingency plans for the July 24-Aug. 9 Summer Games since the WHO declared a global health emergency last month.

The U.N. agency’s emergencies program director, Michael Ryan, said Tuesday the sporting event was “way too far” away to consider giving advice that would affect Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics.

“We are not there to make a decision for that,” Ryan told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a news conference at WHO headquarters.

Geneva-based WHO has been in regular contact with the IOC in nearby Lausanne since the virus known as COVID-19 emerged in December.

“We don’t give them judgments,” Ryan said. “We assist them with their risk assessment. We will be working closely with them in the coming weeks and months.”

The death toll in mainland China due to the virus rose to almost 1,900 on Tuesday, with more than 72,000 confirmed cases.

The outbreak has caused numerous sports events in China to be canceled, postponed, or moved, including qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese athletes and teams have also been unable to travel for some competitions. China sent a team of more than 400 athletes to the Rio Olympics. It won 70 medals, including 26 gold, to place second in total medal standings.

Around 11,000 athletes and many more team coaches and officials from more than 200 national teams are expected in Japan for the Olympics.

Japan has experienced the most significant outbreak of the virus outside of China, on the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in quarantine at Yokohama in Tokyo Bay.

During a 14-day isolation that ends Wednesday, 542 cases have been identified among more than 3,700 passengers and crew.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Tokyo Marathon limited to elite runners due to coronavirus

For Mike Eruzione, Al Michaels, it’s no miracle that 1980 Olympics endure

Leave a comment

Mike Eruzione has been reminded on a daily basis about the Miracle on Ice for nearly four decades. While playing celebrity golf tournaments. At speaking engagements. Or that time he auctioned his jersey and stick from the Soviet game to a 9-year-old boy named Seven.

Eruzione, now 65, likes to open conversations with one anecdote about meeting strangers, which he repeated in a call with reporters last week.

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, it’s depending on their age — I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. And I remember where I was when we won,” Eruzione said. “And I always say, ‘We? I didn’t know you were on the team.’

“But people felt a part of it. … It’s nice to know that people remember and share some great stories about what we did so long ago.”

The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team owns a last name that means “eruption” in Italian. Eruzione scored the decisive goal in the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to a shock gold medal during the Cold War in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBCSN airs a 30-minute special marking the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET. It will feature a conversation between Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, the play-by-play voice of the game dubbed by Sports Illustrated the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

Eruzione has grandchildren now. Three of them skate at the Mike Eruzione Center in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass.

“They don’t even know who Mike Eruzione is,” Eruzione said of the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, “but they know about the Miracle.”

All credit to the U.S. Olympic team of 20 players between ages 19 and 25, back when the NHL did not participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were essentially a team of professionals. The nation won the previous four Olympics and throttled the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Michaels, calling hockey at the Lake Placid Winter Games alongside Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Michaels, then 35, said he was assigned the sport because he had the most hockey experience on the ABC Olympic talent roster — one game. He called the 1972 Olympic hockey final by himself.

Feb. 22, 1980: As the U.S. led the Soviet Union 4-3 and the final seconds ticked down, one word came to mind: miraculous.

“It got morphed into a question and quick answer, and away we went,” Michaels said.

Eruzione said he didn’t learn of Michaels’ call — “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” — until two weeks after the Olympics. He didn’t watch the game broadcast until years later.

“I never thought it was a miracle, but it was a catchy phrase and it sounded right,” Eruzione said, noting he preferred Michaels’ call in the final comeback win over Finland to clinch the gold: “This impossible dream comes true.”

Team members since gathered often — to light the 2002 Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City, for fantasy camps in Lake Placid and for coach Herb Brooks‘ 2003 funeral. Eighteen of the 20 players are scheduled to reunite this weekend in Las Vegas.

Absent will be Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. And Bob Suter, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at age 57.

It was Suter’s death that motivated Eruzione and others to commemorate the 35th anniversary together in Lake Placid. It was believed to be the first time all living players were together in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Games.

Eruzione said that the 2004 film “Miracle” introduced the team to a new generation. Now at many of his speeches, the majority of Eruzione’s audience was born after 1980.

“I’ll say, how many people watched the movie ‘Miracle,’ and almost everybody raises their hand,” he said. “So I think what the movie did for us as a team was kind of rejuvenated our team as far as people knowing who we were and what we are and what we were about.”

NFL coaches set up “Miracle” viewings for their teams before games. Michael Phelps watched it for motivation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Phelps told relay teammates, “This is our time,” before they beat rival Australia. An ode to Brooks’ pregame speech before the Soviet game.

Michaels, whose 13-year-old grandson won an October hockey tournament in Lake Placid, said he watched “Miracle” last week for the first time in about a decade. He helped do voiceovers in production more than 15 years ago, though the original Lake Placid audio was used for his signature call.

“The great thing is, in a way, when you watch it back or you watch highlights back, you almost become like in the third person, like somebody else is doing this and announcing this game,” Michaels said. “I exult the way I think most of the country did and do when they see highlights of it. So it’s kind of an out-of-body experience in a way, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

After Eruzione shared his tale of strangers’ memories, Michaels added one of his own.

“One of my favorite stories is Mike Eruzione calling me maybe eight to 10 years ago and saying, ‘The greatest thing about this is every time I come home and maybe I’m a little down, I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll put the tape in,'” Michaels said. “‘Every time I shoot, the puck goes in. It will forever.'”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Miracle on Ice reunion to include all but 2 players