Serena Williams out to overcome 2018 US Open meltdown against Andreescu

One year on from her career low point against Naomi Osaka the former champion takes on yet another prodigy in Bianca Andreescu

Not since Muhammad Ali roamed boxing in the 60s and 70s has there been an individual sporting psychodrama to equal that generated by Serena Williams.


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Three weeks short of her 38th birthday (which she does not celebrate because of her Jehovahs Witness faith), Williams is hurled into another anniversary she cannot avoid when she revisits the scene of probably her most anguished experience. It is a year since the great American left Arthur Ashe Stadium in tears, a broken champion who could do little but surrender to her own frailties and the rock-solid tennis of Naomi Osaka, a teenager who would rise further then fall in the almost inevitable narrative of their sport.

When Williams reaches for the 24th major of her career on Saturday she will see across the net another prodigy, the ridiculously talented Bianca Andreescu of Canada. It promises to be a struggle as titanic as any Willliams has had since she won her first match here 21 years ago, in three sets against the Australian, Nicole Pratt.

She could not recall that match when asked about it earlier in the week, and meant no disrespect to a fellow professional. But there have been so many triumphs, and quite a few disasters in a career like no other. When she saw off the reduced challenge of the fifth seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets on Thursday, she registered her 101st victory at her home tournament.

But anyone remotely familiar with her career will know that Flushing Meadows has not always embraced Williams like a champion should be. Her meltdown against Osaka last year was one of several, a few of which have cost her not only a win but peace of mind. There have been times in her career and life when she has flirted with total breakdown, yet has not stayed down.

When she was striving for a calender grand slam in 2015, her emotions bubbled up like a volcano and she lost in the semi-finals to the veteran Italian doubles specialist, Roberta Vinci.

In 2011, she had another attack of nerves when the Australian, Samantha Stosur, cashed in here at the conclusion of the fortnight of her career, ignoring the distraction of Williamss verbal exertions on serve, as well as her verbal abuse of the chair umpire, which cost her a warning and a penalty and ultimately the match. Neither Vinci nor Stosur are in her class, yet they beat her, as have others.

Bianca Andreescu consoles Serena Williams after Williams had to retire from the final of the Rogers Cup. Photograph: Frank Gunn/AP

Can Andreescu? She has not lost since March. On Thursday night she came back from the brink of defeat to beat Belinca Bencic in two sets of the most compelling tennis, rich in exquisite ground strokes that singed the surface of the most dramatic workplace in the sport. As 24,000 fans leaned forward uncertain of what to expect next, she stole the result from Bencic, who led handily in her own second-set comeback, but found her opponent too strong and determined.


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There is a look about Andreescu that borders on the frightening. Her gaze is as hard as her forehand. She carries muscle physically and mentally. She will be the most formidable foe in Saturdays final. Asked about the challenge in front of her, she said I dont think I would have believed [anyone who told her a year ago she would be in the final of the US Open against Williams]. I was ranked, like, outside 150. Its just crazy what a year can do.

Then, tellingly, she added If someone would have said that a couple weeks ago, I think I would have believed them.

That is the power of innocence. Andreescu believes. Yet nearly every respected observer expects Williams to prevail. It is a judgment built on history, and a valid one if we are to stand back and look at not only her record but her astonishing ability. She has won 23 majors, but not a single tournament since she gave birth for the first time two years ago. That would indicate an understandable decline. But, like Ali, she encourages dreaming. She makes the impossible not only likely but probable.

Her admirers are not alone in their assessment. To be in yet another final, it seems honestly crazy, she said after beating Svitolina. But I dont really expect too much less.

Now she has to deliver. Williams sets impossibly high standards. Anyone who witnessed her dismantling of Svitolinas normally reliable game would reckon it was a convincing performance. She said, however: I think today was solid … it definitely wasnt my best tennis.

Svitolina agreed, but observed: What she does and what shes achieved, its something unbelievable. Everyone dreams about it, [but] for now, its only she who can do it.

We should strap ourselves in for an epic conclusion to the fortnight. If Williams equals Margaret Courts all-time record of 24 majors it will be no more than she deserves. Andreescu has all of that to look forward to.

Original Article : HERE ;

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