They made 2019 (IX): The day Bianca turned dreams into reality

 - Simon Cambers

EPISODE 9/10. In 10 days, 10 players and 10 stories, here are the tales of a fascinating year

Serena Williams congratuling Bianca Andreescu at the net after the Canadian won the US Open 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

EPISODE 9/10. This is how the Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu announced herself on the big stage.

On the eve of the US Open women’s final, Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu was asked if she had ever allowed herself to dream of winning one of the sport's biggest titles. 

“I remember actually when I was 16, after I won the Orange Bowl title, I remember I wrote myself a cheque… (for) winning the tournament obviously," she said. "Ever since that moment, I just kept visualizing that. If that can happen on Saturday, then that would be pretty cool”.

Bianca Andreescu smiling after she won the 2019 US Open©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The kind of occasion Andreescu was born for

Two days later, the 19-year-old faced Serena Williams in the final in New York, in front of a crowd desperately trying to will the 37-year-old American over the line for what would have been a record-equalling 24th grand slam title.

As it turned out, it was the kind of occasion Andreescu was born for. Twelve months beforehand, she had been beaten in the first round of the qualifying event; a year on, she held her nerve to clinch a 6-3, 7-5 win for her first grand slam title.

Sometimes, a player becomes a star over time, a gradual progression through the ranks before they really make it big. Sometimes, they burst onto the scene like a shooting star, winning the biggest titles at the first time of asking.

Bianca Andreescu kissing the Indian Wells 2019 trophy©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Nowhere near ready

For Andreescu, there was a very short apprenticeship. The 19-year-old Canadian announced herself on the world stage with a big win in March, at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where she led Williams 3-1 in the final before the American quit with a back injury, a match that gave her a taste of what it might be like to face Williams in New York.

Her hard-hitting, uncompromising game had long since caught the attention of the tennis world. As a junior, she won the Orange Bowl twice and though she didn’t win a grand slam title, she was singled out as one for the future.

Having begun 2019 by qualifying for the main draw in Auckland, she then went on to beat Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams on her way to the final. In Indian Wells two months later, she crushed Garbiñe Muguruza and then beat Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber to win Indian Wells for her breakthrough victory, thumping winners throughout.

What made her win in New York so impressive was that after playing in Miami in late March, she was off the Tour with a shoulder injury for the best part of two months. Returning at Roland-Garros, she was nowhere near ready and at Wimbledon, she went out early.

Bianca Andreescu entering the Arthur Ashe Stadium ahead of the US Open 2019 final©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“I've been visualising it almost every single day“

But Andreescu is no ordinary human being. This is a woman who has always believed she belongs on the biggest stages, taking on the best players. Aggressive and fearless, she lets her emotions out on court and plays, and speaks, as if she was born for grand slam finals.

And so, on a warm afternoon in New York, Andreescu proved it, with a victory that showed what she is made of.

When she led 6-3, 5-1, the match looked over, but Williams hit back to 5-5 and Andreescu was rattled, cupping her ear to the crowd and at times, struggling to hear herself think.

But that’s when her mettle shone through. Having held serve for 6-5, she ripped a Williams second serve down the line for the winner to clinch the title. There was no collapse onto the court. Andreescu simply stood, hands covering her face, before a quick fist pump. She had always known she was capable of this, and she had done it.


Unlikely to be the last

“This wasn't the only time I visualized playing in the finals actually against Serena Williams. It's so crazy, man” Andreescu said. “I've been dreaming of this moment for the longest time. Like I said after I won the Orange Bowl, a couple months after, I really believed that I could be at this stage. Since then, honestly, I've been visualising it almost every single day. For it to become a reality is just so crazy. I guess these visualizations really, really work.”

Bianca Andreescu hitting a forheand during US Open 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Williams summed up Andreescu's game. “I felt like Bianca plays well under pressure,” she said. “She goes out and she plays hard. She does what she does best, and that's move up to the ball, that's hit winners, that's play with a ton of intensity.”

To have done that, against Williams, in a US Open final, says everything about Andreescu’s ability and her mental strength. If she can stay fit, her first grand slam title is unlikely to be her last.