“This is why the US Open is so special,” Bianca Andreescu told the cheering crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium after her 6-4, 6-4 win over Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday.
Andreescu sounded like a seasoned veteran when she said it, someone who had experienced the Open’s unique form of frenzy many times in the past. Which was odd when you thought about it, because this is the first time the 19-year-old has played in the main draw at Flushing Meadows, and this was her first match in Ashe. Did she have any jitters walking into the big court for the first time? Nope. If anything, she seemed ready for even bigger things—like a night session.
“It was so fun,” Andreescu said. “The atmosphere isn’t like playing in the evening, obviously, but I still felt the energy.”
“It’s a dream come true, so I prepared myself really well. I handled my emotions well today.”
That’s how Andreescu rolls: Like an old soul and a born star—like someone who has internalized the matter-of-fact fearlessness of the millennials who came before her (yes, she was born in this century). When Serena Williams stopped playing because of a back injury in their final in Toronto earlier this month, Andreescu ran straight over to her and consoled her as if they had been best friends for years. When she won the title after Serena’s default, Andreescu took the trophy and climbed to the top of the umpire’s chair with it, as if she had just won the World Cup for Canada. When Andreescu faces higher-ranked veterans, the way she did in the former No. 1 Wozniacki on Saturday, she acts as if the court and the stage belong to her alone.
Most important for her results and her future, Andreescu has already developed a varied and complete repertoire of shots, and she instinctively knows how to blend them together into a coherent, effective, and often surprising attack. Because Wozniacki is so hard to hit through, I expected Andreescu to come out and throw lots of different looks at her. Instead, she began by belting the ball over and over, like an old-fashioned power-baseliner. While she made her share of errors in the early going, she hit her share of balls past Wozniacki, including a bomb backhand return that put her up a break at 4-3. Then, just when Andreescu had established a hard-hitting pattern and pushed Wozniacki backward, she changed it up and began to bring her forward with drop shots.
“It’s hard to play against Andreescu, because she’s got everything,” Virginia Wade said in the commentary booth, with the empathetic exasperation of a former player.
Wade also made another important point about Andreescu, one that has held true for her all year, and that goes a long way to explaining her success.
When a player makes a few mistakes or gets broken, it will often lead to a loss in confidence, and a few more mistakes. With Andreescu, the opposite is true. As Wade pointed point, when she loses game or two in a row, she gets annoyed with herself, and then comes back stronger and more determined—more fearless. Against Wozniacki, when Andreescu was broken, she invariably bounced back with an aggressive and confident return game of her own. She plays well when she’s irritated, and when she’s challenged, two useful traits for any player to have. Andreescu created 17 break points in this match, and hit 27 winners to Wozniacki’s 13. She was also 15 of 18 at net.
“I felt really good,” Andreescu said. “I started off the match pretty well, and then the second set, as well.
If Andreescu has a flaw, it’s what happens to her when she’s not challenged. Today she built a 6-4, 3-0, two-break lead, and then didn’t seem to know what to do. Her winners turned to errors, as Wozniacki dug in and made her customary goal-line stand at the baseline; soon the score was 3-3. But right on cue, once things were close again, once Andreescu was back in a battle, she raised her level and closed out the match.
The final game was a brilliant summation of everything she can do on a court. On the first point she hit a crosscourt forehand winner while sliding the other way; on the second, she rolled a delicate backhand pass at Wozniacki’s feet; on the third, she hit a service winner; and at 40-0, she made up a new shot, what I can only describe as a touch swing-volley winner.
“I was up 3-0, but then as expected she found a way and she changed a couple of things. I felt like I relaxed a little bit,” Andreescu said. “But then I put things together, and then I managed to pull through in the end.”
That last sentence will probably end up describing many more matches in Andreescu’s future. She’s a player who likes to mix things up in both senses of the term—she thrives when she’s in a fight, and she has multiple way of winning them.
As for her immediate future, it looks bright. The other three players left in her quarter are Taylor Townsend, Elise Mertens, and Kristie Ahn—which means Andreescu is the clear favorite to reach the semis in her first US Open.
She has always acted like a star and a champion. By this time next week, she could be one.
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