NEW YORK (Reuters) - Clobbering her way past her semi-final opponent Belinda Bencic at Flushing Meadows on Thursday, 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu proved she is no longer an underdog.
Andreescu’s win over Bencic also meant she became the first Canadian woman to make the U.S. Open final, where she faces Serena Williams, who is chasing a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam single title.
The victory over the Swiss has capped a rapid rise up the rankings in 2019, which has included her first two titles at Indian Wells and the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
“It’s just surreal. I really don’t know what to say,” said Andreescu, who had never advanced beyond the second round of a Grand Slam before. “It’s a dream come true playing against Serena in the final of the U.S. Open.
“A lot of emotions are running through my body right now. A lot of thoughts, too. But right now I’m just trying to take in the victory.
“Hopefully I can just keep the momentum going for the final.”
Bencic, who battled all the way in an epic two-hour and 13-minute semi-final, felt the teen had the game to challenge the 37-year-old Williams.
“She beat so many great players. I definitely was not surprised. I don’t think anyone should be,” said 22-year-old Bencic.
“I think she’s definitely a great player. She totally deserves to be in the final.”
Andreescu ended 2018 ranked 178th in the world. She now sits 15th and her rapid rise has astounded tennis fans, her opponents and even her coach.
Canadians, however, are eager to jump on the bandwagon and support the youngster following her meteoric rise.
During the first set of her semi-final the hashtag #SheTheNorth became the number-two trending topic on Twitter in Canada, while tennis fans balked when the main sports station, TSN, bumped her match in favor for the NFL season-opener between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.
Williams, who won the first of her 23 Grand Slam titles before Andreescu was even born, has also acknowledged she would need to be at her best on Saturday to deny the teen.
“She’s a great player. She mixes things up. You never know what is going to come from her,” said Williams.
“She serves well, moves well, has a ton of power. She’s very exciting to watch. It’s good. I think it’s great for women’s tennis.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury