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Bianca Andreescu Wasn’t Afraid Of Serena Williams — Or Any Of Tennis’s Best Players

As women’s tennis continues its youth movement, it just might have found its next young star.

Bianca Andreescu, just 19 years old, captured her first major title on Saturday with speed, power and confidence. To win the U.S. Open, she dominated Serena Williams — the most dominant player in the history of tennis. And that may have been proof of Andreescu’s best asset: her ability to play her best against the best.

The Canadian has never lost to a top-ranked opponent in her young career. Since her 2019 season began in Auckland, New Zealand — where she beat then-No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki — Andreescu is 8-0 against players ranked in the WTA Top 10. Going undefeated against the tennis elite to start a career is rare for even top players. Serena Williams went 5-3 in her first eight Top 10 matches, while Venus Williams won two and lost six. Monica Seles was 4-4, Steffi Graf was 2-6, and Maria Sharapova didn’t win a match, a perfect (or perfectly imperfect) 0-8.

Andreescu has been nearly unbeatable this season, with a record of 43-4 and a streak of 13 straight matches won. When she won a title at Indian Wells in March, Andreescu won three-set duels against then-No. 6 Elina Svitolina in the semifinal and No. 8 Angelique Kerber in the final. She beat Kerber again later that month in Miami. In Toronto, Andreescu upset No. 5. Kiki Bertens and No. 3 Karolína Plíšková before her final win over Serena Williams, who retired four games into the match with back spasms.

Before this U.S. Open, Andreescu had never played in the main event — failing to make it out of qualifying the previous two seasons. That’s also rare. According to the WTA, Seles was the last woman to win a major in her debut, winning the Australian Open in 1991 at the age of 17. Andreescu’s ranking, No. 178 at the end of the 2018 season, is now No. 5.

“It’s so crazy, man,” Andreescu said in her post-final press conference on Saturday. “I’ve been dreaming of this moment for the longest time.”

Andreescu showed on Saturday why she has rocketed to the top of the rankings. She serves well, even against a returner as deadly as Williams. Her forehand and backhand shots are deep and fast. She also plays with creativity, especially on drop shots.

While Andreescu was in a zone, Williams at times looked lost. The 37-year-old had eight double faults on her serve and landed her first serves just 44 percent of the time.1 She hit 33 unforced errors to Andreescu’s 17. And Williams’s second serve made Andreescu even more dangerous. Williams won just 30 percent of the points on her 43 second serves after winning 48 percent of those points this season going into the Open.

Williams gave Andreescu the credit, but she was frustrated with her own play after the loss. “I honestly don’t think Serena showed up,” Williams said. “I have to kind of figure out how to get her to show up in Grand Slam finals.”

Williams has lost eight straight sets in major finals since 2018, in matches at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. But she’s not the only women’s player to struggle for sustained success. Kerber beat Williams in Wimbledon last year but has fallen off lately, losing this year in the first round in the U.S. Open and French Open and in the second round at Wimbledon. Naomi Osaka won two straight majors, at last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open, but she lost early in the French Open and in the first round in Wimbledon. (In this U.S. Open, she lost to Bencic in straight sets in the fourth round).

Essentially, no one has any idea who will win a women’s Grand Slam these days. There’s a lot of up-and-coming talent, like Cori “Coco” Gauff, a 15-year-old who reached the third round at the U.S. Open. That’s why Andreescu is both a surprise and totally expected — because anything can happen.

“It’s been a crazy ride this year,” Andreescu said. “I can definitely get used to this feeling.”

Footnotes

  1. Before the Open, she was landing 60 percent of her first serves for the season.

Tom Perrotta is a tennis writer based out of Brooklyn and frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal.

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