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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