September 7, 2019: A day to be remembered by all Canadians, whether they are sports fans or not.
Since the beginning of the game of tennis, through the amateur and professional eras, no Canadian had ever won a major singles title. Only Eugenie Bouchard in 2014, and Milos Raonic in 2016 had even reached a major singles final for a chance to play for a title. Bianca's US Open win is a big deal. She made history.
The year she has had has also been unprecedented. This time last year, she was ranked outside the top 200 in the world. At the beginning of the year she was #152. She lost early at the Australian Open. Then, she caught fire.
I can't explain why she caught fire. Sometimes, it just happens to athletes. It's called the zone. Everything is clicking on all cylinders - professionally, personally, athletically, mentally. For Bianca, she was in the zone.
Before the Aussie Open, she got to the final of a tournament in Auckland, then won a top tier ITF tournament in Florida. She got to the semis of her next tournament in Mexico, and then in Indian Wells, CA, (a major tour event just below the grand slams) she won the title - the biggest singles title a Canadian man or woman had ever won.
But she had played so much tennis, her shoulder was overworked and she injured it. Unwisely, she entered the following week's Miami Open and continued to injure it. Ultimately, she would be out of the game for almost 5 months (except for an appearance at the French Open).
In August, at the Canadian Open, she returned, but I had very little optimism for her success. She was a Canadian at her home tournament (usually the kiss of death for any Canadian); it was her first tournament back from injury; and the field was deep. But is was as if she had never left the court - or the zone. She knocked off seed after seed, staging comeback wins and saving set and match points (which were ultimately championship points). The anticlimactic final was almost like a dream. She won and became the first Canadian in 50 years to win the singles title.
At the US Open, she was still in the zone, but here while playing crowd favourites, she faced a hostile crowd, which only added to the incredible mental strength Bianca has. Again, she came back from sets down, break points and set points to stage the most unlikely run ever at the US Open. The matches with Wozniacki, Townsend, Mertens and Bencic were unbelievable shows of mental and physical strength. At the end of the matches, I couldn't believe what I was witnessing - because any other player would have wilted under the pressure, as so many players do. I suddenly realized that this was a very special player - and she just happened to be Canadian. When she raced out to a 6-3, 5-1 lead in the final, I expected it from her. It wasn't a surprise. The win and the moments after were a complete fog. I had to replay the match to make sure it was real.
The media hoopla after the US Open was most deserved. Only a special player like Bianca could put all of that aside and step back onto the court to finish off what is easily the best year a Canadian tennis player has ever had in the history of the sport.
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