Then Andreescu did something surprising, considering her relative inexperience and the pressures of the moment. She composed herself in real time. She held her serve to take a 6–5 lead, then broke Williams the very next game to claim the title. In doing so, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Grand Slam.
Andreescu plays an aggressive brand of tennis. She’s not a counterpuncher like Simona Halep, who defeated Williams in the finals at Wimbledon in July. She looks to dictate play with her forehand, which she hits with enormous amounts of pace and topspin like Rafael Nadal, the 18-time Grand Slam champion who will face Daniil Medvedev in the men’s final tomorrow.
But in today’s final, it was the consistency Andreescu displayed that ultimately allowed her to triumph. Williams was the aggressor for most of the match; she hit 14 more winners than Andreescu, but also committed 16 more unforced errors. Williams pressed at times, often trying to find angles that weren’t there or to hit winners at inopportune points in rallies, while Andreescu showed a willingness to grind: She ran over 400 total feet more than Williams, frequently scrambling from one side of the court to the other just to keep the ball in play. It was a gritty, confident performance by a player who wasn’t even alive when Williams captured her first Grand Slam singles title 20 years ago.
Williams has now lost four Grand Slam finals in a row, and remains one title shy of Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major championships. For the second straight year at the U.S. Open, she lost to a precocious player with the talent to be a force on the women’s tour for years to come. Today’s final was thankfully bereft of last year’s controversy, but for Williams and her fans, the sight of her coming up short once again on one of the sport’s biggest stages is surely bittersweet. Still, the atmosphere within Arthur Ashe Stadium when she began her comeback in the second set was electric. (The support the crowd showed her was reminiscent of the way fans at this year’s Wimbledon men’s final rallied around Roger Federer in his unsuccessful bid to defeat Novak Djokovic.)
As for Andreescu, a slew of statistics speaks to the remarkable season and meteoric rise she is currently in the midst of. She has not lost a match since the Miami Open, when she retired during the fourth round due to a shoulder injury, and now has an 8–0 record against players ranked in the top 10. Last season, she lost in the qualifying rounds of the U.S. Open; this year, in her first appearance in the tournament’s main draw, she emerged victorious.
But to truly appreciate Andreescu, it’s necessary to watch her play, from the ways she strikes the ball with precision and strength to the confidence of her body language. In the early stages of today’s final, Andreescu was the more demonstrative player, punctuating winning points with fist pumps and cries of “Come on!” She withstood everything Williams threw at her, including a passing shot aimed directly at her body that Andreescu deflected at the last moment. By contrast, Williams often seemed tense, muttering to herself when points didn’t go her way and occasionally flashing looks of relief when they did. Williams fed off the crowd’s energy and briefly flirted with a comeback, but at the end of the match, Andreescu emerged the winner. There’s a good chance this will be the first of many Grand Slam victories for the young Canadian phenom.