Seeing Bianca Andreescu beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final on Saturday was one of the most emotional sporting events I’ve witnessed in some time. I was nervous. I was emotional. I was proud and I was a wreck — and that was just during the warm-up.
All the American commentators were picking the 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams over the 19-year-old Canadian who had never even played a set in the New York tournament before this year and was ranked 150-something at this time in 2018.
Just like all the U.S. experts on TV picked whoever was playing the Toronto Raptors before every round (they couldn’t beat the Bucks, they were not as good as the Warriors etc., etc.) until the NBA team finally silenced them by winning it all and there was no one else to play. It’s almost like our southern neighbours don’t respect us quite enough — or they’re just insufferable homers, or both. Oh, well, at least they’re not trying to build a wall to keep us out
Williams faltered in her previous three Grand Slam finals and Bianca was being called the next one for her strong play, gutsy demeanour and desire to win. You know, kind of like Serena.
Bianca had already beaten Serena in the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto when Williams was losing and suddenly came down with an injury that forced her to quit and give Andreescu the victory. But that didn’t really count as beating her and comparing winning the Rogers Cup to conquering the U.S. Open is a bit like comparing a doubles title with a singles title – from toiling in obscurity in the dark, to centre stage with the spotlight and all the trappings and money that comes with it. At the largest tennis stadium in the world, Arthur Ashe, no less.
So the Canuck, via Romania, which explains why we can’t say her last name, won the coin toss Friday and let Williams serve and promptly broke her serve cruising to an early 2-0 lead in front of an astonished Big Apple audience. It was truly amazing to see her make big shot after big shot, a la Williams, to easily win the first set 6-3 and take a commanding 5-1 lead in the second and, as it turned out, deciding set.
Then Serena caught a break and regained the momentum in a sport that’s all about “mo.” It ignited the hometown red, white and blue faithful and she won four straight games. It looked like the favourite American was going to crush, and roll over, the upstart Canadian, tie Margaret Court’s majors record and write the Hollywood ending on home soil, that everyone wanted. That was only right and just and who did Bianca think she was anyway?
And I’m sure all Canucks were worried this American juggernaut was going to squash poor little Bianca by finishing off the comeback to win 7-5 in the second set and then humiliate her, and the country she represented, 6-0 or 6-1 in the third set for even thinking about winning something called the U.S. Open, in NYC, in her lifetime. She was out to prove without a doubt who’s the best of all time.
Except she didn’t. The Hollywood casting agency had to step down.
Bianca stemmed the tide and won the next game to take a 6-5 lead, then promptly broke Serena’s serve once again to win 7-5 and claim the title in straight sets.
The crowd was silent once again, before they made a bee line for the exits, and Serena was a good sport, unlike last year, and Bianca was champion. The first Canadian champion in a tennis major, ever. The first rookie to win a U.S. Open ever, and she earned $3.8 million U.S. to boot. In Canadian dollars, she could probably pay off our national debt with that kind of money. Not that she will, or should.
The True North Strong and Free isn’t supposed to win tennis tournaments, let alone majors. And in NYC, against Serena? Forgettaboutit, as they say in New York. A miracle on centre court.
Sure, the world knows we can play hockey and maybe even curl, but we’re too nice and backwoods and unsophisticated to excel at a sport like tennis with its rich (in every sense of the word) history and expensive trappings.
Why, where do Canadians play tennis in the winter in Mississauga anyway? Well, Florida, like everybody else, actually.
But if the Americans watched The Tonight Show, or Kelly and Ryan or GMA or caught any part of the U.S. Open they should know there’s a new superstar in town. And she’s Canadian via Romanian refugee parents (perfect, really). We’re very proud of her, and she ain’t going anywhere.
A Northern Star is born. See you next year Serena.