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

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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.”

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Adam Jones, five-time MLB All-Star, becomes Olympic eligible

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Should the U.S. qualify for baseball’s Olympic return, a five-time MLB All-Star could be eligible for its roster in Tokyo. And he has interest.

Outfielder Adam Jones signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s domestic league, which, unlike MLB, will take an Olympic break next summer to allow players to take part in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years.

Jones, 34, made no mention of Olympic eligibility in a social media post announcing the signing. His Instagram avatar is a photo of him in a Team USA jersey from the World Baseball Classic.

Jones’ agent later said that Jones does have interest in playing for the U.S. in Tokyo, should an American team qualify in the spring.

“To play over in Japan has always been a desire of Adam’s, and the timing worked out that the Olympics happens to be played in Tokyo the first year of his contract,” Jones’ agent wrote in an email. “It wasn’t one of the factors on his decision BUT more of a [sic] addition to the overall package to decide to go.”

Jones called being part of the U.S.’ 2017 WBC title, “probably the best experience of my life so far, especially with sports,” according to The Associated Press. He was one of five players to be on the U.S. team at each of the last two World Baseball Classics.

The U.S. still faces a difficult task to qualify for the Tokyo Games. It lost to Mexico last month in its first of up to three chances at qualifying tournaments, using a roster of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players.

Major Leaguers are not expected to be made available for qualifying or for the Tokyo Games.

The next two qualifying tournaments will be in late March (an Americas qualifier in Arizona) and early April (a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei). It remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

Jones could become the third player with prior MLB All-Star experience to compete at the Olympics from any nation, joining Australian catcher Dave Nilsson and Canadian pitcher Jason Dickson.

Jones made five All-Star teams during an 11-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles from 2008-18 before playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

Many players competed at the Olympics before making an MLB All-Star team, including Stephen Strasburg and Jason Giambi.

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Russia boxers to boycott Olympics if sanctions not lifted

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Russian boxers will only take part in the Tokyo Olympics if doping sanctions forcing them to compete as neutral athletes are overturned, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Umar Kremlev said he has spoken with the Olympic boxing team and they “unanimously” rejected the conditions laid out by the World Anti-Doping Agency as punishment for manipulating doping data.

The WADA sanctions, announced on Monday, ban the use of the Russian team name, flag or anthem at a range of major sports competitions over the next four years, including next year’s Olympics.

“They said we won’t go without our flag and anthem,” Kremlev said. “We aren’t going for medals, but for that feeling that I brought the highest honor home for my country.”

Separately, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament said Russia could create an alternative to the Olympics.

“This ruling show the clear crisis in international sports institutions. I believe that Russia could host its own games at home,” Valentina Matvienko said in comments reported by the Interfax news agency.

There is a precedent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union refused to compete in the Olympics and hosted its own Spartakiads — named after the ancient rebel slave Spartacus — with a strong socialist slant. However, the Soviet Union began competing at the Olympics in 1952 and Russians generally take great pride in the country’s Olympic achievements since then.

If the sanctions aren’t overturned, Kremlev said Russian boxers would prefer to turn pro rather than compete at the Olympics.

“A world champion (in professional boxing) is better known than an Olympic champion,” Kremlev said, adding the Russian anthem would be played before pro title fights.

Kremlev said boxers are being asked to shoulder the blame for offenses committed in other sports. He said they would still stay at home even if Russia’s athletes in other sports decided to take part.

“If other sports are guilty and people have breached the WADA code, why are we punished?” he said. “We are for honest sport and against doping. We want our sport to be clean … If someone breaks the rules, we push them out.”

Russia is a major power in amateur and Olympic boxing. It hosted both men’s and women’s world championships this year, finishing at the top of the medals table at the women’s event and second in the men’s championships. The International Olympic Committee has taken direct charge of boxing at the Tokyo Olympics after criticizing chronic financial problems and infighting at the International Boxing Association.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov talked up Russia’s chances of overturning the WADA sanctions.

“I think that there is every basis to appeal the decision, because our experts have presented their position, and they have the same database as WADA does,” Kolobkov said in comments reported by state news agency TASS. “There is an answer to every question and the whole process is ahead of us.”

The official decision on whether to dispute the sanctions will be made on Dec. 19 by the Russian anti-doping agency’s supervisory board, but senior figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, have signaled their preference for taking the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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