The women’s singles finals of the 2019 US Open will be played on Saturday afternoon inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, and tennis fans could not have asked for a more intriguing matchup.
On one side you have Serena Williams, the 37-year-old American who holds 23 career Grand Slam titles to her name, including six US Open crowns, and is the greatest women’s tennis player ever.
On the other, Bianca Andreescu, a 19-year-old Canadian who had never competed in the main draw of the US Open prior to last week. In fact, just last year she was hovering around the Top 200 in the world and lost in the qualifying tournament in Flushing Meadows.
But on Saturday afternoon, the two will compete for a chance to hoist the final Grand Slam trophy of 2019, and all those statistics will take a backseat to the play on court.
The two played their respective quarterfinal matchups on Thursday night, both coming through in straight sets. The eighth-seeded Williams looked as dominant as ever, as she has all tournament-long, bulldozing an in-form Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 in just one hour and 10 minutes.
“To be in yet another final, it seems honestly crazy. But I don’t really expect too much less,” said Serena, who equaled Chris Evert’s mark of 101 US Open victories on Thursday. “I think today was solid. It definitely wasn’t my best tennis…She probably could have played better, as well. I definitely know I could have played better. I’m just focusing on, not that, but just the next match.”
While she did have some errors early in the first set, it’s hard to imagine that Serena could have played better, blasting 34 winners and saved all six break points she faced.
In the second match on, Andreescu took on 13th seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who was fresh off wins over the defending champion and top-seed Naomi Osaka and 23rd seed Donna Vekic.
Both players displayed nerves in the first set, as was expected, as neither player had reached this stage of a major before. Andreescu failed to convert on any of the six break point chances she had in the opening set, but took it to Bencic in the tiebreak to grab the early lead.
Bencic responded in the second set, racing out to a 5-2 lead and had multiple opportunities to serve for the set. But her serve, which had been outstanding throughout the fortnight, let her down in the big moments, and Andreescu rattled off five consecutive games to storm back and claim her spot in the championship with a 7-6(3), 7-5 win.
“It wasn’t easy at all. She hits the ball really hard and really flat. I think every shot my knees were to the ground,” said Andreescu. “I think it wasn’t too fun playing her. But that’s what makes her such a great player.
I’m just really glad with how I managed that. I tried to change the rhythm as much as possible. That was the goal right from the beginning of the match. But it wasn’t easy. When someone is hitting flat and deep, it’s hard to do that. But the main reason I won today I think is because I just kept fighting. I never let up.”
That fighter mentality has become synonymous with Andreescu over the last two weeks, and puts her in a good position to take on Serena.
“I think when I’m down, I play my best tennis,” she added. “Whenever my back is against the wall, I think I’m just extra focused in those moments. I remember I told myself at 5-2 that I didn’t want to go three sets. So I think that just switched my mindset. I was just really, really focused.”
The two have met very recently, in fact, in the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto last month. That match didn’t last very long as Serena had to withdraw with a back injury.
“I remember watching her when I was about 10,” recalls Andreescu. “I don’t remember specifically a moment. I watched her win most of her Grand Slam titles. I think she’s fighting for her 24th on Saturday. I’m sure she’s going to bring her A game. I’m going to try to bring my A game, too…May the best player win.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.