It’s official: Canada—and the world—has fallen in love with tennis player Bianca Andreescu.
On September 7, the 19-year-old Canadian made history when she defeated tennis legend and 23-time Grand Slam champion, Serena Williams, 6-3, 7-5 to win the U.S. Open in New York. She is the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title and is now ranked fifth in the world for women’s tennis. Oh, and her historic victory comes less than a month after she became the first Canadian in 50 years to win the Rogers Cup when Williams, 37, dropped out because of an upper-back injury.
But her performance on the court isn’t the only thing that’s getting us excited about our homegrown tennis star—we’re also seriously impressed (and inspired!) by the incredible sportsmanship and grace that she’s been demonstrating through her rookie year, especially in a sport that’s not exactly known for its camaraderie.
Here’s the thing—female tennis players have a history of being pitted as rivals. Williams, herself, has publicly feuded with 32-year-old Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova, for years, which Sharapova documented in her 2017 memoir, “Unstoppable: My Life So Far.” One noteworthy passage? When Sharapova wrote, “I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon. But mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry. Not long after the tournament, I heard Serena told a friend—who then told me—‘I will never lose to that little b*tch again.'”
And fellow Canadian tennis player, Eugenie Bouchard, has famously said she does not want to make friends on the court.
“I don’t think the tennis tour is the place to have friends,” the 25-year-old Olympian said in 2014. “For me it’s all competition. I think it’s important to just remember that we’re going to play against each other in matches. It’s not like we’re teammates. To me, it’s kind of more competitive.”
Bouchard also has been said to refuse handshakes with opponents, telling reporters the gesture is “lame.”
“It’s nothing personal toward her, I just don’t believe in wishing my opponent good luck before the match,” Bouchard told the Daily Mail as she explained why she decided to pass on the handshake with Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru in the 2015 Fed Cup.
But Bianca Andreescu’s behaviour towards her opponents is a refreshing contrast to Bouchard’s “no handshake rule.” Our Queen in the North isn’t falling prey to the tired narrative that there’s only room for one woman at the top.
At Saturday’s U.S. Open, when Andreescu returned a weak serve from Williams, winning her the game, the Canadian teen went to hug her opponent at the net before falling on the blue court to bask in her win.
— ESPN (@espn) September 7, 2019
She later gushed about her opponent and remained humble about her victory.
“Being able to play on this stage against Serena, a true legend in this sport, is amazing,” said Andreescu after the match. “Oh, man, it wasn’t easy at all.”
She continued, “It’s so hard to explain in words, but I’m beyond grateful. I worked really hard for this moment. This year has been a dream come true and being able to play on this stage against Serena, a true legend in this sport, is amazing.”
The Canadian teen even went as far as apologizing to the crowd of Williams fans at New York’s Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I know you guys wanted Serena to win, so I’m so sorry,” Andreescu said.
"I'm so sorry" – @Bandreescu_ 😂🇨🇦
— Offside (@OffsideDH) September 7, 2019
And this isn’t the first time she’s demonstrated such good sportsmanship on the court. The world first took note of her positive ‘tude back in August, when Williams tearfully withdrew from the Rogers Cup women’s final match. When Andreescu was told she had won the match, the Canadian tennis player didn’t relish in her victory—instead, she walked over towards a seated Williams and said, “Serena, I’m so sorry, can I give you a hug?”
Not the ending we all expected, but what a moment for these two. ❤️🎾🏆
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 11, 2019
As she knelt down to console Serena, she continued, “I’ve watched you your whole career, you’re a fucking beast. Injuries—I’ve been through so many already, and you know how they are.”
“You’re going to bounce back. You’ve dealt with so much in your career, this is just a minor setback for a major comeback, I’m sure.”
Later, when accepting her Rogers Cup winner’s trophy, Bianca told Williams, “You are truly a champion on and off the court.”
Can we all take a moment to celebrate this incredible example of women supporting women? In a profession where women have to work exponentially harder to get the recognition—and pay—they deserve, it’s beyond heartwarming to see a young, rising star supporting her peers.
Bianca’s professionalism and poise was praised by many, including Oprah Winfrey, who congratulated the Canadian player on her win and sportsmanship, and tennis legend, Billie Jean King, who called Andreescu’s empathy and support for Williams “admirable.”
At just 19 years old, @Bandreescu_ shows a level of maturity well beyond her years. This is how women should treat each other. Her empathy and support for Serena were admirable. Competitors and women supporting women! #RC19 https://t.co/b9v7TG1NjB
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 12, 2019
Serena, who holds the record for most Grand Slam titles in tennis to date, also spoke highly of her opponent after her loss at the Rogers Cup.
“I’m officially a fan,” she said. “I mean, I was before, like I said… I was really sad and she made me feel a lot better, so that was really nice. She’s only 19—she definitely doesn’t seem like she’s a 19-year-old. Her words on court, her game, her attitude, her actions, that’s what I mean [by Bianca’s an ‘old soul’].”
Attitudes are definitely starting to change in women’s tennis. For example, despite her feud with Sharapova, Williams told The Associated Press in 2015 that her personal mindset around rivalries changed when she joined the professional ranks in the ’90s.
“It’s like a big family now,” she said of her peers, recalling that tennis rivals Steffi Graf and Monica Seles “never spoke.” “I definitely think people talk a little bit more now than back in the ’90s. We travel 10, 11 months of the year together. So you just know everyone.”
And Bianca’s peers were quick to send their congratulations over to the Canadian champ via social media, including Kirsten Flipkens, whom Andreescu had defeated earlier in the tournament, and Genie Bouchard, who came under fire in August for seemingly shading Bianca when she tweeted, “Sooooo basically I coulda won the Rogers cup,” with the laughing emoji. (She later tweeted that she was “kidding” with an eye-roll emoji.)
For all of you wondering what those words were after our 2nd round.. "Congrats girl. You can win this tournament here. Believe in it ok?" Very happy for @Bandreescu_ on winning her 1st (and trust me, not last) grand slam 🏆 https://t.co/N3O5SoI0GI
— Kirsten Flipkens (@FlipperKF) September 7, 2019
— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) September 7, 2019
Change may be slow, but Bianca Andreescu is clearly setting an excellent example of women supporting women, proving that you can still be competitive in your sport without demeaning other people to get to the top. She is a class act, and is making our country proud. And yeah, like Serena, we’re officially fans.
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