There is crying in tennis. Serena Williams, the most powerful woman to ever play, sat courtside in her chair, slumped over, head down, tears in her eyes, her upper back screaming in spasms.
Or was it her shoulder?
She said back. Others suggested shoulder. Either way, it was over.
It was over after 19 minutes, four games, barely a memorable moment, this championship match between the legend of 23 Grand Slam titles, and the emerging teenager from Canada. There was no phantom punch thrown here. There was no Michael Johnson hamstring pull. Instead, it was more Roberto Duran’s no mas, in English this time, after four games of tennis and Williams put an end to an afternoon so many of us had waited so long for.
The crowd at the Aviva Centre, loud, nervous, excitable, ready, before a point had even been played in the final of the Rogers Cup, stood stunned, near-silent and awkward when it abruptly ended, not sure whether to applaud Bianca Andreescu, the kid from Thornhill via Mississauga via Romania. Not sure what to do at all.
Serena’s back couldn’t last the afternoon. The pain was too much.
A lot of money spent by a lot of people on a lot of nothing.
The greatest victory of Andreescu’s life — and there will be more, and there will be Grand Slams won along the way — it was one without a final score, without a match point, not necessarily tainted but certainly incomplete and just slightly incomprehensible.
There was no emotional fist-pumping ending with a partisan crowd going wild. That’s what Sunday should have been all about. A changing of the guard, so to speak. A torch being passed. Andreescu looked a touch uncomfortable celebrating a match that ended in injury, and a few seconds later was on her knees, in front of the injured Williams, arms around her, bowing, so to speak, to the queen of tennis.
Bianca started to tear up as she spoke to her hero. Williams teared up as well. Andreescu called her an effing beast and meant it in the most complimentary way. She told her it was just a minor setback and is convinced Serena will be back. “And she said some nice things about me,” said Andreescu.
That was about as much drama as there would be after a week of so much drama and excitement and unevenness from Andreescu. She was up and down and hurt and healthy and behind and ahead all week-long. She walked a tight rope to the final and stayed in balance often enough to get that far.
And then the final came and this was the Rogers Cup version of the lights going out at the Boston Garden on a Stanley Cup night, without there being any real tomorrow. Just a sense of emptiness. Your favourite television show coming on and all you got was test pattern at 3-1.
This was your ice cream melting too soon on a boiling afternoon. You wanted the taste. You wanted the cool. You wanted the flavour. Instead, you got nothing. The fact that four games were played meant no refunds for anyone, I was told. Williams apologized to the fans and to Andreescu, whom she clearly admires. She called the Canadian an “old soul.” Andreescru may be 19 in age, Serena figures, but not in game or attitude or maturity. The first time Serena won the Canadian Open, Andreescu was still in diapers. It was just after her first birthday. And all these years later, we have this.
This may have been the last time Williams will ever play Toronto. The women don’t return until 2021.
“Oh my gosh,” she said to the Toronto crowd when handed the microphone at the end.
“I’m not a crier.” And then she wiped her eyes. “I”m sorry I didn’t play today. I tried.”
“I love playing here,” she said later at her post-match press conference. “I love the crowd … I just can’t play today.”
All week long, Andreescu put on a variety of clinics, providing a national audience with its first real view of the 19-year-old. Not only did she leave an impression, but you have to wonder if her combination of guts, power, skill, drama and moxie won’t fit the U.S. Open template just right in a couple of weeks time. She has some Jimmy Connors in her, that kind of battle, that kind of nerve, that kind of show person.
She was up and down and out and dominant at various times throughout the week and, in the end, she was champion. Not the way she wanted to be champion, but in her mind, this being at home, 100 times more significant than her first win on the WTA Tour.
It wasn’t what she wanted or we wanted or Serena Williams wanted, “It’s not the way I wanted to win,” Bianca said and then talked of making Canadian history. History with an injury and an asterisk.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019