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Thursday, January 23, 2020 2:21:45 AM

Bianca Andreescu defeated Serena Williams for the women's title on Saturday. In the round of 16, both the men's and women's singles champions lost out on their bid to defend their titles. Novak Djokovic, who was aiming for his fifth Grand Slam title in his last six attempts, withdrew with a shoulder injury in the middle of the third set against Stan Wawrinka.

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And once again her conqueror was a fearless young thruster from the next generation. The main difference was that this remained a tennis match, rather than a psychological drama.

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There was no controversy — just one of the most phenomenal and complete displays from a newcomer that this sport has ever seen. Remember that Andreescu has never played in the main draw of the US Open before. She did turn up for qualifying last year, as a promising year-old ranked No in the world, but she lost in the first round to an even younger opponent, Olga Danilovic.

Not even her own parents would have picked her then to lift the trophy. What a player this teenager is. She began this year with a runner-up spot in Auckland, where she beat Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams in her first meetings with tennis royalty.

Eight months on, she has played another seven matches against top opposition and won the lot, leaving her at at the start of her young career. It is surely an unprecedented statistic.

Williams and Andreescu embrace at the end of the match Credit: AFP We know, from the evidence of three previous finals in the last 14 months, that Williams feels the stress and expectation to an extent that she never used to before her maternity leave.

Those other matches delivered thumping defeats to Angelique Kerber Wimbledon , Osaka here last year and Simona Halep Wimbledon this summer , with Williams failing to win more than four games in any single set.

Her footwork was slow and heavy from the outset. And even though Williams opened with an ace, she was still broken in the opening game, handing it over with a double-fault.

Would she rouse herself?

There were promising signs when Andreescu brought her into the net with a rare drop shot, and Williams then earned herself an overhead which she smashed away with such fury that it almost threatened to cause Andreescu an injury.

The crowd erupted in what must have been the loudest roar of the tournament, and the energy seemed to knock Williams out of her lethargy. Now we had a match. Williams was still making errors but interspersing them with crunching winners. Andreescu was shaping the ball beautifully with her heavy topspin and giving no free points away.

Serving at down, Williams managed to stave off five break points with some huge serving and bloody-minded defiance, and we thought it might be a turning point.

But no. Andreescu has the mental steel that you might expect from a much older woman. She struck an ace of her own on the very next point and finished the set off in style. She even miscalculated one backhand so badly that she swung twice at the ball — missing the first time and only catching it on the second time around.

In just a few minutes, she was down. But again, Andreescu partially roused the sleeping giant with an ill-advised drop shot, losing the ensuing rally and drawing another huge chorus of cheers from the crowd. Facing Championship point down at in that game, Williams dodged that bullet with a scorching return winner into the corner, then produced her most confident ball-striking of the match to score two breaks and level up at Andreescu lost her timing for a while, understandably.

She had been playing a ghost of an opponent for 20 minutes or so, and now she was up against a roaring lion. It must have been deeply disconcerting. But somehow she rebooted. As Williams served at , she produced two clean winners on the return — the second one a forehand up the near line that scudded past Williams and finished the match.

A tearful Williams was unusually raw and open in the interview room afterwards. But I think this was the worst match I've played all tournament. It's hard to know that you could do better. I don't know what to say.

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I guess I got to keep going if I want to be a professional tennis player. I just got to just keep fighting through it. After I won the Orange Bowl [a leading junior tournament held in Miami], I really believed that I could be at this stage. Since then, honestly I've been visualising it almost every single day.

For it to become a reality is just so crazy.

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I guess these visualisations really, really work. Andreescu also became the first Canadian - male or female - to win a major singles title. She says I am the ying to her yang. It's been a dream come true and now being able to play on this stage against Serena, a true legend of the sport, is amazing.

I tried to prepare my best for the match and not focus too much on who I was playing. That's easy to say but I'm really pleased with how I dealt with everything. Definitely the crowd [was the toughest thing today].

I know you guys wanted Serena to win so I'm so sorry, and obviously it was expected for Serena to fight back. She's done that so many times, it's why she's a true champion.

I just tried my best to block that out and the last game wasn't easy. She started serving way better, balls were going all over the place.

I'm just pleased with how I managed it.

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Last year wasn't an easy period in my life.

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