NEW YORK — Bianca Andreescu will try for Canada's first Grand Slam singles title when she takes on American legend Serena Williams in the women's final of the U.S. Open on Saturday. Here are a few things to know about the two contestants for the final Grand Slam of 2019.
A DATE WITH DESTINY? — The stars seem to be aligning for Williams to make history in Saturday's final. The American has 23 Grand Slam titles — her first coming before Andreescu was born — and a 24th in front of an adoring crown in New York would tie her with Margaret Court for the most in tennis history. It would also set Williams up to break the record in Court's home country in next year's Australian Open.
SHE THE NORTH — Andreescu, who hails from Mississauga, Ont., shares more than a geographic connection with the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. A genuine fan of the team, Andreescu managed to make it to Scotiabank Arena a couple of times last season despite her busy schedule, and she was seen sporting a black-and-white Raptors hoodie during her run to her title at Indian Wells. So it's only fitting the hashtag #SheTheNorth — a play on the Raptors' popular "We The North" slogan — was a top trend on Twitter after her semifinal win. The hashtag has been used in various contexts for years, but hadn't caught fire until paired with Andreescu.
SISTER ACT — Serena Williams' first Grand Slam final loss came at the hands of her sister Venus at the 2001 U.S. Open. Serena would go on to get the better of her sibling, winning her next five Grand Slam final appearances — all against Venus. In all Serena has faced Venus in nine Grand Slam finals, winning seven. Their last meeting came at the 2017 Australian Open, with Serena beating Venus in straight sets. No other competitor has come close to being as big an obstacle for Serena as her sister. Angelique Kerber is the only other player to have beaten Serena in multiple Slams, with the German winning two of three meetings. Andreescu will be the 18th different Grand Slam opponent Serena has faced.
WHAT'S IN A NAME? — While Andreescu's surname is common in Romania (her parents' birthplace), it seems to be a pronunciation puzzler for tennis announcers. Interpretations heard on television during her Grand Slam run include sounding out the last syllable like the letter Q (an-DRESS'-cue), or splitting the two Es into separate syllables (ahn-dray-ES'-koo). For the record, the player herself pronounces it an'-DRESS'-koo.
TOP GUN — Williams has been consistently in the WTA's top-10 since the beginning of July after a long climb back up the rankings over the past two seasons. Williams returned to action on Feb. 18, 2018 after taking time off for birth of her first child, and has designs on claiming the No. 1 ranking for the ninth time and first since 2017. A win will move her up two spots to No. 6. Andreescu, meanwhile, is guaranteed a big jump in the standings regardless of Saturday's outcome. She'll jump from 15th to fifth if she wins — tying the WTA rankings high for a Canadian set by Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., on Oct. 20, 2014 — and up to ninth if she loses.
NOT SO GRAND — Tennis has been on the rise in Canada for the last few years, but the country has yet to celebrate a Grand Slam singles champion. In fact, before Andreescu made it to the final in Flushing Meadows, only two Canadians had vied for a Grand Slam singles title with neither taking a set in their match. Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic downed Bouchard 6-3, 6-0 in the 2014 Wimbledon final, while Andy Murray defeated Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2) two years later at the All England Club.
PLACE YOUR BETS — As expected, Andreescu is a significant underdog going into Saturday's match, and the betting lines show it. The website OddsShark.com listed Williams as a -286 favourite on Friday afternoon, meaning you would need to wager $286 on Williams to make $100 if she wins. Andreescu is listed as a +220 underdog, so every $100 placed on the Canadian teen nets another $220 if she wins.
BROADCAST INFO — The Andreescu-Williams final will be shown on TSN4 at 4 p.m. ET. The network's coverage starts at 3:30 p.m., with a pre-match show. Live CFL, soccer and auto racing coverage are on other TSN channels. TSN said the Andreescu-Belinda Bencic semifinal on Thursday night set a network record for tennis with an average audience of 995,000. The audience peaked at 1.4 million toward the end of the match. Andreescu's quarterfinal on Wednesday had an average audience of 852,000.
The Canadian Press