An­dreescu fends off Serena for 1st Slam ti­tle

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY HOWARD FENDRICH

Bianca An­dreescu dis­played the same brand of big-serv­ing, big-hit­ting, in-your-face ten­nis that Serena Wil­liams usu­ally does.

And now the 19-yearold from Canada is a Grand Slam cham­pion, earn­ing her first such ti­tle while pre­vent­ing Wil­liams from col­lect­ing a record­ty­ing 24th.

An­dreescu took charge early in the U.S. Open fi­nal, go­ing up by a set and two breaks, then held off a late charge by Wil­liams to win 6-3, 7-5 for the cham­pi­onship Satur­day night.

“Be­ing able to play on this stage against Serena, a true le­gend in this sport, is amaz­ing,” said An­dreescu, who was ap­pear­ing in her first ma­jor fi­nal, while Wil­liams was in her 33rd. “Oh, man, it wasn’t easy at all.”

This is the sec­ond year in a row that Wil­liams has lost in the fi­nal at Flush­ing Mead­ows. This one had none of the con­tro­versy of 2018, when she got into an ex­tended ar­gu­ment with the chair um­pire while be­ing beaten by Naomi Osaka.

Wil­liams has now been the run­ner-up at four of the seven ma­jors she has en­tered since re­turn­ing to the tour after hav­ing a baby two years ago. The 37-year-old Amer­i­can re­mains stuck on 23 Grand Slam sin­gles titles, one shy of Mar­garet Court’s mark for the most in his­tory.

“I’m just so proud that I’m out here and com­pet­ing at this level. My team has been so sup­port­ive through all the ups and downs and downs and downs and downs,” Wil­liams said. “Hopefully, we’ll have some ups soon.”

An­dreescu, the first player from Canada to win a ma­jor sin­gles ti­tle, went up 5-1 in the sec­ond set and served for the vic­tory there, even hold­ing a match point at 4030. But Wil­liams erased that with a fore­hand re­turn win­ner off a 105 mph serve.

That launched a fourgame run for Wil­liams, who broke An­dreescu again to make it 5-all.

“I was just fight­ing at that point,” said Wil­liams, a six-time U.S. Open cham­pion. “Just try­ing to stay out there a lit­tle bit longer.”

The Arthur Ashe Sta­dium crowd was over­whelm­ingly sup­port­ing Wil­liams, not sur­pris­ingly, and spec­ta­tors got so loud as she tried to put to­gether a suc­cess­ful comeback that An­dreescu cov­ered her ears with her hands after one point.

“I just tried to block ev­ery­thing out,” An­dreescu said af­ter­ward. “I’m just glad with how I man­aged, re­ally.”

Sud­denly, this was a con­test.

Or so it seemed.

But as well as An­dreescu han­dled ev­ery­thing – her­self, her far-more­ex­pe­ri­enced and suc­cess­ful op­po­nent, and even the mo­ment – Wil­liams was far from her best, es­pe­cially while serv­ing. She got bro­ken for the sixth time in the fi­nal game.

This was the largest age gap in a Grand Slam fi­nal, and it came al­most ex­actly 20 years to the day since Wil­liams won the

U.S. Open for her first ma­jor ti­tle in 1999, a year be­fore An­dreescu was born.

An­dreescu is the first woman to win the tro­phy at Flush­ing Mead­ows in her main-draw tour­na­ment de­but in the Open era, which started in 1968 when pro­fes­sion­als were al­lowed into Grand Slam tour­na­ments. She only has par­tic­i­pated in four ma­jors in her brief ca­reer.

Just think: A year ago, An­dreescu was los­ing in the open­ing round of qual­i­fy­ing.

On Satur­day, there she was, putting her hands on her head, drop­ping her racket and then pump­ing her fists when it ended. After a hug from a smil­ing Wil­liams at the net, An­dreescu kissed the blue court and rolled onto her back, soaking in the ap­plause.

About two hours ear­lier, the 15th-seeded An­dreescu was stand­ing in the hall­way lead­ing from the locker room to the court, do­ing a pre­match interview in which she sounded like some­one whose mind was as con­fi­dent as her play would soon be, say­ing, “I’m just go­ing to take it like it’s any other match.”

She be­gan the day with a 33-4 record in 2019, in­clud­ing 7-0 against top-10 op­po­nents, and with­out a loss in a com­pleted match since March 1. An­dreescu missed a chunk of time in that span with a shoulder in­jury, which clearly is no longer hin­der­ing her.

An­dreescu took it to Wil­liams, fig­u­ra­tively and literally.

An­dreescu pro­duced the kind of power Wil­liams is more ac­cus­tomed to dish­ing out than deal­ing with from the other side of the net.

WIL­LIAMS HAS NOW LOST HER LAST FOUR MA­JOR FI­NALS. SHE RE­MAINS STUCK ON 23 GRAND SLAM SIN­GLES TITLES, ONE SHY OF MAR­GARET COURT’S MARK FOR THE MOST IN HIS­TORY.

One shot went right at Wil­liams, who leaped to avoid the ball at the base­line.

And An­dreescu was fear­less, al­ways push­ing, al­ways ag­gres­sive, punc­tu­at­ing plenty of win­ners with cries of “Come on!” – the way Wil­liams does – or “Let’s go!”

Even her coin-toss choice showed just how bold she is: An­dreescu opted to re­ceive, a de­ci­sion that at first glance might have seemed un­usual, given that she was fac­ing the woman gen­er­ally re­garded as the pos­ses­sor of the great­est serve in the game, now or ever.

On this day, though, it worked out. Wil­liams dou­ble-faulted eight times in all, in­clud­ing three times on break point, part of her 33 un­forced er­rors, nearly twice as many as An­dreescu’s 17.

There were other ways in which Wil­liams was not at her best, seem­ingly un­sure of her­self, in­clud­ing one odd-look­ing check-swing on a back­hand in the sec­ond set that then let An­dreescu put a shot away to go up 4-1.

CHARLES KRUPA AP

Bianca An­dreescu re­turns a shot to Serena Wil­liams in the U.S. Open fi­nal Satur­day in New York.

SARAH STIER AP

Serena Wil­liams, right, con­grat­u­lates Bianca An­dreescu after An­dreescu won Satur­day’s U.S. Open fi­nal in New York.

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