Twenty years ago, an emphatic 17-year-old Serena Williams was left speechless after securing her first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open over then-world No. 1 Martina Hingis. Twenty years later, she was fighting for her 24th major title at the same place it all began.
This time, she had to face 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, a Canadian superstar who’s had an inconceivable year of success — earning a perfect record over top 10 players — and who seems to replicate the ripe power Williams has held all this time.
Williams saw herself 20 years younger across the net during the final. She lost 6-3, 7-5, but she didn’t lack at all. This is Williams’ fourth straight finals loss since her return from maternity leave two years ago, but it’s the best she’s looked.
The beginning of the match looked almost the same as we’ve come accustomed to in the last three major finals Williams has secured: nervous. The 24th major title that would tie her for the most all-time with Margaret Court has been looming over Williams since she won her 23rd against her sister, Venus, at the 2017 Australian Open.
After saving championship point in the second set, however, everything changed.
It was 5-1 Andreescu, and with the match on Andreescu’s racquet, Williams hit a winner to save one championship point. The crowd erupted. Williams broke Andreescu’s serve to make it 5-2 and then won three more consecutive games. For a minute, Williams had all the momentum, and it seemed as if she wasn’t going to look back.
Then Andreescu recovered from the crowd’s deafening, blatant desire for a complete turnaround. She won the next two games and proved herself to be the next teenage sensation. Williams didn’t win the match, but she showed that the aptitude that helped her win the 1999 U.S. Open hasn’t faltered.
Williams isn’t mad about the loss, either. She embraced an emotional Andreescu at the net after the match and was nothing short of graceful during the trophy ceremony. Young Andreescu’s talent — aggressive, powerful, relentless ball-striking — only reminds Williams of herself and the promising bright future that’s in store for the Canadian.
Twenty years later, Williams is fighting just as hard. As she said herself, “I just come out here and do as well as I can. Been here for 20 years — and still here.” This loss will sting, but she’s already on to the next — Grand Slam title No. 24 is inevitable. It just wasn’t meant for right now, but it’s coming.