Time is a funny thing. It never stops, but then occasionally something, or someone will stick around so long to make you think it does – like Serena Williams.
Now 38, in her 33rd major final, the American has been doing this as long as many people can remember. As it happens, the woman set to face her on Saturday, Bianca Andreescu, is one of those people.
Nineteen years old, Andreescu wasn’t even born when Serena won her first major title, now she is the only thing standing in her way to a 24th major title. More than Angie Kerber, Simona Halep, or even Naomi Osaka, Andreescu is the one who can usher in a new era, or become absolute proof of the American’s timelessness.
So who will it be, Serena or Andreescu? Read on for our preview of the 2019 US Open Women’s Singles Final.
You might have guessed this already, and indeed as it was at Wimbledon and USO ’18, and again at the Wimby this year, so it is again in New York: it’s all about number 24 for Serena. That said, given the thrashing she was handed by Simona Halep in that most-recent final at SW19, a win here is almost as important for her standing as a current elite player as much as it is for where she ranks among the all-time greats.
For Andreescu, a win would cap a remarkable year. From having to qualify for the Australian Open to becoming a US Open champion would be one hell of a leap, and at 19, she would be the first female teenage grand slam champion since Svetlana Kuznetsova did it here in 2004. Of course, even in a loss the future is very bright for the young Canadian, but a victory would certainly help fast-track her rise to superstardom.
Aside from the momentary blip caused by Caty McNally in the second round, Serena’s run to the final here has been nothing short of dominant. Neither Qiang Wang in the quarters, nor Elina Svitolina in the semis looked like they could compete with the American, who was not only hitting the absolute cover off the ball, but moving much like her old self, which is doubly impressive considering her recent back and ankle problems. Assuming those injuries don’t flare-up again here, she looks about as primed for a major final as she could be.
Riding a 13-match win streak, Andreescu is certainly on quite the tear right now, albeit having been made to fight for every inch to reach this point against both Elise Mertens and Belinda Bencic in her last two matches. That said, you get the sense the Canadian lives for those comeback moments, and her single-minded determination is eerily reminiscent of, well… the woman about to be on the other side of the net. Assuming those extra hours on court haven’t taken too much out of her, she should be ready for another knock-down, drag-’em-out street fight.
A rivalry that looked set for a roaring start a few weeks ago in Toronto, unfortunately Serena’s back injury limited her to just four games before she was forced to throw-in the towel, which means this matchup is wide-open to interpretation.
Aside from drawing on their similarly resolute mindsets, Serena and Andreescu will look to go about beating each other in very different ways. Where for Serena, the name of the game is (as ever) overwhelming firepower, for Andreescu it will be about variety, and whether she has enough of it to derail the freight train in her path.
That said, this isn’t a matchup of offense against defense. What makes the Canadian so dangerous is that not only can she time a backhand down-the-line on the half-volley, or feather a drop-shot, or even reset a point with some exquisitely-placed junk, but she can then accelerate her own shots when the time comes to do so. Simply put, her transitions from defense-to-offense are excellent, and as long as she can make the time necessary to do them, she’s in with a realistic shot at the upset.
However, more than anyone Andreescu has faced in recent months – well, except for Serena herself – the American isn’t likely to give her much space or time to make those transitions. Serena will look to put the ball on her very fast, get her going side-to-side, and in so doing ask her to dig her way out of trouble as much in individual rallies as she seems to like to do on the scoreboard. Even if such play has been something of a double-edged sword for Serena in recent finals, it means that at the very least, the match will be on her racquet. Add to that the clear edge she should have on serve, and if anyone is to win this easily, it will be her.
Serena in Three. This didn’t work out so well for me when I picked her at Wimbledon, but I’m doubling-down here in New York. The American is playing her best tennis of the year and with the crowd behind her, should have the extra boost needed to get over the line. Certainly, there are slams in Andreescu’s future, but here, it should be number 24 for Serena.