That reaction, pumping her arms, is what I will always remember the day Bianca Andreescu won the US Open.
First Canadian ever to win a grand slam singles title.
First woman ever to win the US Open in her debut appearance.
First player born in the 2000s to win a grand slam title.
Those are stunning statistics, really. Considering she was ranked close to #200 at the time the previous year, and #152 at the start of the year. The change and the turnaround in her game is remarkable. Those statistics are of someone who is both a phenom and a seasoned pro.
In assessing the fortunes of promising Canadian tennis players since the rise of Milos Raonic in 2011, I picked Felix Auger-Alliassime to be the class of the field and the one with the brightest future, capable of amassing titles, multiple majors and reaching #1 in the world.
To be honest, I didn't see that in Andreescu. I thought she was a fighter for sure and would give top ranked players problems (like many Canadian players have done over the years), but I didn't see her at the top of the game and winning titles or majors. This success she's having - it's come out of nowhere. It's other worldly, stunning and so unlike anything Canadian tennis has ever seen before. There has been no slow build to this success. It's as if a switch has been turned on and she's gone from promising good player to champion overnight. It's taken me by complete surprise. It usually takes many seasons to achieve this kind of success. But it's happened all at once. I think I'm still in shock.
I'm so glad media outlets have correctly said she is the first Canadian singles player to win a grand slam. Sebastien Lareau was the first Canadian to win a grand slam of any kind when he won the 1999 US Open men's doubles title with an American partner. And of course, legendary Canadian doubles player Daniel Nestor has won 8 major doubles titles since then. Gabriela Dabrowski was the first Canadian woman to win a major title with a mixed doubles title at the 2017 French Open. But this grand slam singles title is big for Bianca and Canadian tennis. So big.
To defeat crowd favourites in the 3rd and 4th rounds showed immense focus and concentration, even with the raucous New York crowd against her. That she did not fold or let that get to her told me that she had the mental fortitude and strength that is so important in professional tennis. Without that mental toughness, matches (and careers) can go sideways in a hurry. She's so tough mentally and that is the stuff that champions are made.
The next two matches were very close. They were players who, on paper, she should beat even though they were ranked above her. But because of the circumstance of a major, they were very tight matches, and once again, Andreescu held her nerve and made it to the final.
The final, the most watched tennis match in Canadian history, was stunning. Bianca raced out to a 6-3, 5-1 lead and it was shocking how easy it looked. Then, the crowd got involved and it could have gotten very ugly. Somehow, she held her nerve and her serve until it was 6-5. When she broke to win the title, it was a moment I will never forget. I had waited all my life to see that moment and it had happened. It didn't seem real.
That she apologized for winning over the crowd favourite was oh so Canadian. I'm really looking forward to see what is next for her. We could be witnessing a Hall of Fame, multiple grand slams, #1 in the world career in its infancy here. It's so exciting. And she's Canadian.
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