Two months after Canada and Toronto hosted the NBA Finals against the glamour team in professional basketball, a proud nation and its media capital will host the tennis equivalent of the Golden State Warriors.
Yes, Serena Williams will play the local favorite, Bianca Andreescu, in Sunday’s women’s final of the 2019 Rogers Cup. It is a tournament organizer’s dream, and a bonanza for Canadian sports in every possible way.
The week began with Andreescu facing questions about how she would perform, with very few people expecting a full-distance run to the final. The week in Canada has ended with Andreescu cementing her status (pun intended) as an elite hardcourt player.
This isn’t hyperbole or embellishment: How do you NOT identify Andreescu as an elite hardcourt player right now? It would be unwise and ignorant to EXCLUDE her from the short list of excellent hardcourt players in August of 2019.
🍁 THE YEAR OF ANDREESCU
Record: 3⃣7⃣-4⃣ (one loss by retirement)
Titles: 🏆🏆 (Indian Wells, Newport Beach)
v top-🔟 opponents: 6-0
3⃣-set matches: 15-3
Age: Turned 1⃣9⃣ in June
Will crack the top 2⃣0⃣ for the first time in the next rankings#BibiRising
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) August 10, 2019
The year forged by Bianca Andreescu is remarkable on several different levels. The fact that she is in the Rogers Cup final — bidding to become the first Canadian woman to win the tournament since Faye Urban in 1969 — at the age of 19 is remarkable enough in its own right. Yet, that is merely one eye-popping reality out of many.
Get this: Andreescu was out for four months (minus one match at Roland Garros in late May). She promptly returned to the tour and has won five matches in five days, four of them three-setters, four against players who have reached major-tournament quarterfinals, three against former major semifinalists, two against former major finalists.
She is 6-0 against top-10 players this season.
Andreescu has overcome inactivity & injury to make a run to the semifinal in Toronto
How's she doing this?
"I have no idea," the 19-yr-old says with a laugh
1on1 with Bianca on what she's learned about herself this season👇 https://t.co/6nFngMfIUF
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) August 10, 2019
She hasn’t lost a full-length match on hardcourts since March 1… interestingly enough, against the woman she defeated in Saturday’s semifinal, Sofia Kenin. That March 1 match was in Acapulco.
Andreescu has made the semifinals or better in every hardcourt tournament she has played this season, except for the Australian Open and Miami… and in Miami, she didn’t “lose” so much as her body was completely and utterly spent after three weeks of all-out effort.
Many stories of improbable ascendancies are remarkable solely for the fact that a player wins a lot of matches against formidable opposition. To be sure, Andreescu is doing that on a massive scale.
Yet, the fuller story of her rise is partly the WAY in which she is winning: None of these matches are cakewalks. All five matches this week in Toronto have been hard. She was down 5-3 to Daria Kasatkina in the final set in the round of 32, this close to losing early and meeting the expectations pundits (reasonably) held toward her.
Yet, the complete refusal to lose which marked her Indian Wells championship has traveled to Toronto, five months later. Top-10 players, other formidable youngsters, former major finalists such as Eugenie Bouchard — all sorts of players who are either highly accomplished in the present moment, or who once knew what it was like to handle enormous pressure, or both, keep taking their shots at Andreescu.
The 19-year-old keeps finding answers for ALL of them.
And now, she plays Serena Williams.
— Mike McIntyre (@McIntyreTennis) August 11, 2019
The temptation is to think that the result of this match will mean a lot for the U.S. Open and the 2020 season. This match means a lot, but only for the chance to lift a Rogers Cup trophy in front of Canadians. This is a chance to win a championship. That is the prize on the line when Serena faces Andreescu.
We don’t have to look into the future; we can savor the present… which is why the victory has already been won in a certain sense.
It is a victory that Serena and Andreescu will merely have the chance to play each other.
It is a victory that Serena and Andreescu will have the chance to play for Canada’s tennis championship.
It is a victory that Serena — who has set a decades-long gold standard for winning tournaments after long layoffs — now gets to face the player who is creating that standard anew at age 19.
It is a victory that Serena and Andreescu will measure themselves against each other before the U.S. Open, regardless of what happens in New York.
It is a victory that after Serena played Naomi Osaka on Friday, the 23-time major champion gets to play another young star in a battle of WTA generations.
Sure, we will react to the final when it’s over, but for now, simply savor the fact that we have such a magnificent final to advertise the sport of tennis in the best possible way.
Serena. Andreescu. The victory, on many levels, has already been won — for tennis fans and Canadians.