New York: Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu's fiery passion and impressive shotmaking skills had tennis experts figuring she would someday realize her dream of becoming a Grand Slam champion.
It happened Saturday at the US Open in her first Slam final as the 19-year-old defeated 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 to win the $3.85 million top prize.
"I think it's just inside of me somehow. I think it's just my passion for the game," Andreescu said of her secret to success.
"I don't like to lose, so I just try my best every match. I expect a lot from myself, so I think that pressure also helps me do my best in matches." Andreescu, who improved to 8-0 against top-10 opponents by defeating the 37-year-old American star, began playing several sports as a youth but found her calling once she turned to tennis.
"I think it helped me a lot because playing different sports gets you to think differently and it puts you in situations where you have to figure out things right on the spot," she said.
"I think it helped me a lot with my coordination, as well. I think I have pretty good hand-eye coordination. But once I picked up the racquet, I forgot about everything else." Andreescu, whose parents were from Romania, played the youth circuit and three years ago began thinking about how it would feel to win the US Open.
"I did pretty well in the junior tour, so I think the transition from juniors to pros, just having all those results from the juniors helped me do well in the pro events," she said.
"I remember actually when I was 16, after I won the Orange Bowl title, I remember I wrote myself a check of this tournament, winning the tournament obviously." She'll be able to cash a real one now, thanks in part to her fighting ability when under pressure.
"When I'm down, I play my best tennis," Andreescu said.
"Whenever my back is against the wall, I think I'm just extra focused in those moments." Not since Venus Williams in 1997 had the US Open seen a run to the final by a debutante.
The victory lifted Andreescu to a career-best fifth in the world rankings, matching the best-ever mark by a Canadian woman set by Eugenie Bouchard in 2014. But even bigger things are expected from her now.
"I think she's going to be number one soon," said Serena Williams's coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. "Not too soon but in the future, because she has everything that's needed to be number one.
"A lot of respect for her. A lot of tools in her game. Like a really complete game. She has the whole package. Like the game's amazing, I think: the physical, the athleticism, and the mental. She looks incredibly confident. She feels like she's where she belongs. That's the impression she gives." Andreescu, Canada's first Grand Slam winner, matched Monica Seles, who lifted the 1990 Roland Garros trophy in her fourth major, as the fastest player to win her first Slam title in the Open era.
"She's a warrior and she's a street fighter," said her coach, Sylvain Bruneau. "She strives to compete." - 'The full package' -
Andreescu has enjoyed a breakthrough season, winning at Indian Wells as an unseeded wildcard and capturing the Toronto title when a back injury caused Williams to retire in the final.
Andreescu initially caught the attention of former Fed Cup captain Bruneau in 2017 with a string of fearless performances for Canada.
"I'd like to say she's kind of the full package," he said.
Andreescu is the first teen to win a Grand Slam title since Russia's Maria Sharapova captured the 2006 US Open and she is the youngest US Open champion since Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2004.
Asked if she expected to win the US Open, Andreescu was frank.
"Every tournament I go into, I want to win it," Andreescu said.
"I expect a lot from myself which -- yes, to answer your question." Now she has achieved her dream. (AFP)