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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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Serena Williams eyes Slam record in U.S. Open final; this time is different

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NEW YORK — Serena Williams takes the court for a Grand Slam singles final on Saturday, looking to tie the record of 24 titles and her first as a mom. She has done this three times before in the last 14 months. She struck out each time.

“It’s totally different situation now, because now she can move,” said her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, one day before Williams plays Canadian 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu in the U.S. Open final at 4 p.m. ET. “She was in the three finals because she’s the best competitor of all times, not because she was ready.”

Mouratoglou said Williams’ physical fitness is at an apex since she had daughter Olympia on Sept. 1, 2017, which was followed by pulmonary embolism complications that confined her to bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

She returned to make finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018, after withdrawing from the French Open with a pectoral muscle injury. She lost those championship matches to Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka.

The Osaka defeat in the U.S. Open final was marred by Williams’ controversy with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, but it must be said that at the time Osaka was already up one set and a break.

“I”m definitely more ready than last year,” Williams said after destroying quarterfinal foe Wang Qiang 6-1, 6-0 in 44 minutes on Tuesday, “although I thought I was playing really well last year.”

If it wasn’t for her health, Williams might already have tied Margaret Court‘s record 24 Slams this year.

She was en route to the Australian Open semifinals in January before rolling her ankle on the first of her four quarterfinal match points and then losing six straight games to exit. She’s said she shouldn’t have played the French Open after withdrawing from a tune-up event with a knee injury.

She was bounced in the fourth round, which led many to question if, at 37, her chances were dwindling. Williams bounced back at Wimbledon, reaching the final, but ran into Simona Halep playing the match of her life. Mouratoglou also said that Williams’ knee injury hampered her until 10 days before that major.

“Her opportunities are running out,” analyst Chris Evert said before the U.S. Open. “I think this and maybe the Australian Open could be the last two.”

Williams proved Mouratoglou prophetic this week with ruthless efficiency. It’s the first time she hasn’t dropped a set in the three matches preceding a Grand Slam final since she won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant.

But Mouratoglou also predicted before the event that the 15th seed Andreescu would make the final. Andreescu, who was born after Williams won her first Slam at the 1999 U.S. Open, hasn’t lost a completed match in six months. But that statistic is misleading, because she has dealt with more injury problems than Williams this spring and summer.

After winning Indian Wells, she missed the French Open and Wimbledon with a shoulder injury. Andreescu played Williams for the first time at their last pre-U.S. Open tournament last month. But Williams withdrew with back spasms after four games.

That led to a moment that went viral on tennis Twitter. Andreescu walked from her chair to comfort the crying legend.

“I’ve watched you you’re whole career,” Andreescu told her in what had to be one of their first conversations, “and you’re a f—ing beast.”

And that’s what Andreescu must face in her first major final. A year ago, a 208th-ranked Andreescu lost in the first round of U.S. Open qualifying. Should she conquer the beast, it would be the fewest number of Grand Slam main draw appearances (four) before winning a title since Maria Sharapova at 2004 Wimbledon. (Sharapova was also the last teenager to win a Slam)

Saturday’s final also represents the largest age gap in Grand Slam history. In the other six finals with the largest gaps, the younger player won. The younger finalist, if not overcome by the occasion, can play fearless.

Can Andreescu tame the beast? Or will Williams join three other moms to win Slams in the last 50 years — Kim Clijsters, Evonne Goolagong and Court.

Williams has done little talking about the enormity of another final, but provided a glimpse into her mind after Tuesday’s quarterfinals. As she waved to an adoring Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, she appeared to mouth the words, “I’m coming for it.”

“Serena had to experience a bit of pressure in her life,” Mouratoglou said. “And you can’t think that she’s not good dealing with pressure.”

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Serena Williams reaches U.S. Open final, again one win from record

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NEW YORK — For the fourth time, Serena Williams is one match win from a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.

Williams overpowered No. 5 Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 in the U.S. Open semifinals on Thursday night.

She’s into a final (Saturday) for the fourth time in her seven Grand Slams since returning from life-threatening childbirth.

The foe is Canadian 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, who hasn’t lost a completed match in six months but withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon with a shoulder injury. She swept Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-6 (3), 7-5 later Thursday.

“To be in yet another final, it seems honestly crazy,” Williams said. “But I don’t really expect too much less.”

Williams lost the previous three finals: 2018 Wimbledon to Angelique Kerber, 2018 U.S. Open to Naomi Osaka and 2019 Wimbledon to Simona Halep. This time feels different as she continues to chase Margaret Court‘s record.

“In this tournament, I guess, I have definitely turned a different zone,” Williams, who spans a record 20 years between her first and most recent Slam finals, said after her fourth-round sweep Sunday. “I’m not sure if I can articulate what zone that is.”

Since those comments, Williams had what her coach called her best performance as a mom, a 6-1, 6-0 rout of Chinese Wang Qiang in the quarterfinals.

Then she took out Svitolina, the highest seed of the quarterfinalists who hadn’t dropped a set in her first five matches. The Ukrainian squandered a chance for a hot start, going 0 for 6 on break points in the first set.

“It definitely wasn’t my best tennis,” said Williams, who had 34 winners to 20 unforced errors.

Williams is favored against Andreescu, looking to become the fourth mom to win a major singles title.

In their only head-to-head, Andreescu led Williams 3-1 in the final of their last event before the U.S. Open, when Williams retired with back spasms, part of a string of injuries since having daughter Olympia two years ago.

Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, pointed to her recently improved fitness and health as a key to finally winning her first title as a mom come Saturday.

“I know she’s played a lot in her life, but still, there is a special emotion in a final, especially when you’re supposed to win, and when you are called Serena you are supposed to win all the time,” he said Sunday. “It’s not the same as for another player playing a final, an unexpected player in the final..

“The pressure is very important, even more when you play to beat the record of all times.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with the men’s semifinals — Rafael Nadal, seeking a 19th Slam title to move within one of Roger Federer, takes on Italian 24th seed Matteo Berrettini. The other semi pits No. 5 Daniil Medvedev of Russia against former world No. 3 but now 78th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov.

U.S. OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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