NEW YORK, 5:58 PM—Bianca Andreescu wins the US Open, 6-3, 7-5.
First, a thought on Serena Williams: she comes up short on major No. 24 for the fourth consecutive Grand Slam final. She didn't win a single set in any of those matches.
Today, she made a stirring rally from 1-5 down in the second set—I've rarely, if ever, heard the US Open louder.
Even in defeat, Serena makes the moment bigger. Bianca's breakthrough win is even more special because of it.
"If anyone else could win the US Open—except for Venus—I'm glad it's Bianca," Williams graciously said during the on-court interview."
"Oh man, it wasn't easy at all," Andreescu said about the match. "I'm really proud with how I dealt with everything."
Andreescu was asked about the hardest part of crossing the finish line.
"Definitely the crowd," she said. (It was a fair but clearly partisan crowd.) "I know you wanted Serena to win—I'm sorry!"
I'm guessing this tweet of congratulations, from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made Bianca feel a little better:
You can relive the match, game by game, from the below account from inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. More to come from Joel Drucker and Steve Tignor, on both players.
5:54 PM—Andreescu leads, 6-5: Andreescu snaps a four-game losing streak with a hold. Pressure, at least for the time being, back on Williams.
A man in a #66 Team Canada hockey jersey—but without the LEMIEUX nameplate—walks by with a look of concern. Is Andreescu's stumble a karmic result of that jersey faux pas?
5:50 PM—5-5, second set: Taken to 30-30, Williams hits a second serve that Andreescu can't keep in the court. At 40-30, the same sequence occurs.
A clearly rattled Andreescu will serve to Serena, who has upped her intensity as she's upped her game count. Crowd at full bellow.
5:46 PM—Andreescu leads, 5-4: Andreescu hits a short backhand long to fall behind 0-30, and she stares at the court in a stunned state. When Williams wins the next point, for 0-40, Andreescu walks to the baseline with her fingers in her ears, yelling at herself.
When Williams breaks, Andreescu falls to her seat—and nearly everyone in Arthur Ashe Stadium rises in an uproar.
Down two breaks, Williams will serve to level the second set.
5:42 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 5-3: The crowd is the loudest it's been all match, by far, after Serena holds with relative ease. Big-time pressure on Andreescu now, serving for the title for a second time.
5:38 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 5-2: Down to her last point, Serena hits a return winner to stay alive. It's enough to rattle Andreescu—for the first time this match, I notice her taking extra time bouncing the ball.
And on Serena's second break point, she converts. It's a long hill still to climb, but let's see what happens from now.
5:31 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 5-1: If Serena Williams is to tie Margaret Court with her 24th major, she'll need to do so from nearly the greatest deficit in women's tennis: down a set and 5-1. She's broken in the game, and looks broken mentally as well.
Her only saving grace may be that it's now Andreescu who has everything to lose.
5:28 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 4-1: With few answers for Andreescu, Serena is going for everything now. Sometimes that's devastating, but right now, is has the air of desperation. Williams only musters one point against a locked-in Andreescu, who is two games away from winning her first major, and handing Serena her fourth consecutive loss in a Grand Slam final.
5:24 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 3-1: Williams has a game point to get level with Andreescu in a set for the first time all match (aside from 0-0 scores). She double faults—her fifth of the afternoon.
And in a massive shift in momentum, Andreescu wins the next two points to regain her break-of-serve lead. Crowd still trying its best to will Williams back into form, including Alexis Ohanian, who's been as demonstrative as Andreescu courtside.
5:17 PM—Andreescu leads, 2-1: Serena finally gets into an Andreescu's service game, doing what Bianca has done to her throughout this match: hitting big on the return. But it's actually her weakest return of the four break points she plays that leads to the break. A net-cord winner stops the Andreescu surge; lucky or not, Williams desperately needed something to go her way. Let's see how both players react.
5:09 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 2-0: Andreescu is reminding me a bit of Novak Djokovic in the zone. Everything is coming back with pace—especially when it's pace that coming her way.
She's flummoxed Williams, who double faults to end the game. Elapsed time: 51 minutes.
5:07 PM—Andreescu leads, 1-0: After holding the first game, Andreescu keeps up the intensity with a yell and a hop. She's in command right now.
5:04 PM—That's seven consecutive sets lost by Serena in Grand Slam finals. Here are the first-set stats:
Serena doubles for the set to Andreescu, 6-3. Huge hitting, and Serena facing an opponent who can do everything she can, with better movement. 84 pct on first. Goodness. pic.twitter.com/hZmoH8lqmo— Full Dissident (@hbryant42) September 7, 2019
5:02 PM—Andreescu wins first set, 6-3: Quite frankly, Bianca has hit a bigger ball than Serena so far. Her returns have been forceful, and her groundies have tied up Serena with their spin and pace. There's no question who the better player has been this set.
And with a Williams double fault, that assertion is confirmed.
4:56 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 5-3: The previous game could have rattled most young players, but Andreescu against stands up to the challenge, her opponent and the crowd. Williams earned her first break point of the match, but Andreescu fires an ace to erase it, and wins the game two points later.
To say that Andreescu has been impressive so far is a grand understatement.
4:52 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 4-3: At 30-30, returning a second serve, Andreescu mixes it up with a heavy return and a steady diet of slice. It wins her the point, and Serena replies with a much-needed ace. At that juncture, Williams had only put 63 percent of her first serves in play. Andreescu has not only applied pressure during rallies, but with her aggressiveness on return, she's forcing Williams to go for more, at the expense of accuracy, on the first ball.
Williams gets into more serving danger, needing to hit a second serve on a break point, but saves it.
But after another massive return at deuce, Andreescu earns a second break point in the game. Forced to hit another second serve, Williams bails herself out with a pinpoint down-the-line forehand winner.
Third break point: Williams hits a first serve, and it's a good one: an ace.
Andreescu earns a fourth break point with more crosscourt gusto. Williams motions to her player box in frustration—and stays in the game yet again.
And after all that, Williams wins the game on her first game point. You probably don't want to let Serena off the hook four times.
(Williams' first-serve percentage now? 53 percent.)
4:40 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 4-2: Serena begins the game with a clean winner down the line, but ends it with a "Come on!" emanating from the other side of the net. When she's been healthy, nothing has fazed Andreescu this season on hard courts, and at least for now, that trend is holding. She's gliding along the baseline and keeping her groundstrokes deep, putting continuous pressure on Williams.
4:35 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 3-2: Just 16 minutes have elapsed, and the last four service holds have been drama-free. And, thankfully, the two have now played more games than their last match, which lasted just four.
Here's a shot from the Serena leaping winner:
4:33 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 3-1: Another comfortable hold from Andreescu. The crowd isn't uncomfortable—yet. Huge exaltations with every Serena winner.
4:29 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 2-1: Williams gets some air, then get son the board. On a point that will be shown on television and social media regardless of the outcome, the 37-year-old smacks a jumping overhead for a winner, setting the tone for a relatively one-sided game.
Andreescu is more than holding her own in the rallies, getting balls in play and switching to offense at the first opportunity. Williams is being made to go for more than she's potentially comfortable with, from the onset (she's gone down the line a few times now).
4:26 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 2-0: A nerve-stabilizing hold at 30 for the plucky Canuck.
4:23 PM—Andreescu leads by a break, 1-0: Andreescu hits a big ball, but this match is still on Serena's racquet. That was particularly evident in the first game, which saw Williams begin with an ace, and end with two double faults. Williams raced to a 40-15 lead but undid herself with unforced errors, leading to two untimely—but, when are they ever timely?—double faults.
In case you're wondering, the chair umpire is Alison Hughes.
4:11 PM: "Everything is a bonus," Serena Williams says in her pre-match interview, before walking onto Arthur Ashe Stadium to a deafening roar. The 23,000-plus seat venue is filled from the choice seats to the nosebleeds, with noise cascading down to create a college-football like atmosphere. Appropriate for a Saturday.
NEW YORK—We only saw four games of Serena Williams vs. Bianca Andreescu this summer in Toronto, before the American retired with a back injury. About a month later, they're back in the final stage of a big tournament together. Based on how they've each played at the US Open, let's hope that we see as many games as possible.
Saturday afternoon's showdown, their second career meeting, has three sets written all over it. Williams, seeking her 24th Grand Slam singles title, comes into this match looking imperious—but we've said that at various points of each of her past three Slams where she's reached the final, only for her to finish runner-up. Williams lost last year's Wimbledon and US Open finals, as well as this year's Wimbledon final, all in straight sets. The pressure on Williams to tie Margaret Court's long-held record has compounded over time, and it will only grow in front of what should be a firmly pro-Serena crowd.
If Williams was playing someone with the rugged consistency of a Simona Halep or Angelique Kerber—two of her most recent final-round conquerors—I'd pick against Serena today. But in Andreescu, Williams faces an opponent who should make some mistakes of her own. The challenge will still be immense for Serena: Andreescu is perhaps the hottest player on tour, and she's playing with absolutely nothing to lose. That's an extremely difficult combination to contend with.
Who will prevail: the 19-year-old seeking her first Slam, or the 37-year-old seeking her first Slam in what seems like forever? In my mind, it's a coin flip—not a bad thing for a final. I'll be updating this blog throughout the must-see match.
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