The Duchess of Sussex flew across the Atlantic to see her friend pick up a 24th Grand Slam title but instead witnessed the birth of a new superstar in tennis.
In what was only her fifth Grand Slam main draw Bianca Andreescu fought off a late recovery from Serena Williams to become the US Open champion at just 19. She turned in a command performance of bravery and skill to win 6-4 7-5 in one hour and 40 minutes.
Seeing a 5-1 lead disappear in the second set, she decisively broke for the sixth time on a third match point that saw her unleash a forehand return winner down the court.
Bianca Andreescu kisses the US Open trophy after beating Serena Williams in straight sets
Williams once again finished runner-up and was unable to make history in New York
The 19-year-old Canadian reacted with disbelief after winning the final point of the match
Andreescu kisses the court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Saturday
‘I was just fighting and trying to stay out there, the fans started cheering so hard it made me play a bit better,’ said Williams. ‘Bianca played an unbelievable match.’
Andreescu admitted the crowd had nearly got to her at the end: ‘This year has been a dream come true. It wasn’t easy at all. I know you guys wanted Serena to win, so I’m sorry,’ she told the stadium.
‘I try not to focus on who I’m playing and I’m really proud with how I dealt with everything. I was expecting Serena to fight back, that’s why she is a true champion.’
Relentless pressurising her opponent and comfortable absorbing everything that was thrown at her, Andreescu was magnificent in what was totally uncharted territory.
Bianca Andreescu produced a stunning performance to beat Serena Williams in US Open final
Williams had the chance to make history herself and win a 24th Grand Slam, but she fell short
In the final analysis Williams suffered a particularly lamentable day with her serve as she lost her fourth straight Grand Slam final since coming back as a parent eighteen months ago. Two have been to seasoned baseline scrappers, two against players on a meteoric rise.
Her first serve landed in only 44 per cent of the time, having been at 60 per cent this fortnight up to the final. There was also the ignominy of eight double faults.
But her biggest problem was the Canadian, ranked 208 this time last year and a loser in the qualifying event first round.
At least there was no behavioural drama this time around to distract from a superb display from the new champion.
With British royalty sitting prominently next to coach Patrick Mouratoglou there seemed little danger of any surreptitious hand signalling this time around.
The USA legend lines up a smash against Andreescu during the US Open final in New York
The Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle was in high spirits as she watched from Williams’ box
The US Open were keen to avoid any repetition of last year’s drama, which has seen Carlos Ramos kept away from women’s matches for the whole of this tournament.
They handed the umpiring duties to experienced British official Alison Hughes, for whom this was a 21st Grand Slam final.
Andreescu was attempting to become the first Canadian woman in the post-1968 Open era to win a Grand Slam, and at 18 years and 263 days this was the largest age gap there has ever been between two finalists.
To win the title Williams would need to become the first top ten player to defeat the teenager this season, given her phenomenal 7-0 record against those with single digit rankings in 2019.
The American eschewed the figure hugging catsuit in which she had performed so dominantly in her run to the final.
Andreescu roars with delight during her dominating performance over Williams on Saturday
And the ovation she received when walking onto court would have turned some teenagers’ legs to maple syrup, but it was clear from the outset that the Canadian would not be fazed.
She quickly settled into her rhythm and was gifted a break in the first game when the crowd favourite double faulted. After that there was a confident hold before Williams got herself on the board with a feisty game that saw her drill her opponent at close quarters at the net.
Andreescu was already showing how she can mix up her game while Williams was struggling to maintain the composure that had been so evident this fortnight.
Faced with a highly mobile player at the other end capable of soaking up the pressure, as was the case against Simona Hale at Wimbledon, there were several wild and belligerent slaps into the net.
Hughes was doing her best to sedate the feverish crowd as Williams faced five break points to prevent going behind 5-2. Each time she was equal to the task, but just to stay in the match she was needing to play better than in her last Grand Slam finals.
Williams has won the US Open six times but it wasn’t to be this time on the east coast
Williams created a break point in the next game when Andreescu had a minor letdown, which was saved by a service winner.
But it was clear she was deep in a hole, and she was to lose the first set on a double fault as the young Canadian applied relentless pressure on the return. By the end of the opener her first serve was operating at a 50 per cent success rate and it was clear she was doomed if she could not improve, for all the grunting she was applying to every shot.
Andreescu was playing so well she had hit twelve winners – double her number of unforced errors, and all amid an electric atmosphere.
Williams was cursing her serve as she sat at the change of ends, but much good it did her. The teenager saved a break point in the second set opener and then broke for 2-0 when presented with fourth double fault from the game’s greatest server ever.
Andreescu is just 19 years old and looks to have a hugely bright future ahead of her
The American finally got a break back for 2-1, but only courtesy of a fortunate net cord. She was again bemoaning her serve to her support box when she fell behind 3-1, with the brilliantly versatile Canadian still showing no signs of nerves.
These started to appear as the finishing line came into view, and began to poke their head through when Williams crunched a return winner on her match point at 5-1. Within fifteen minutes it was level, with the crowd saluting every point for the home player like a last-minute winner.
But when she served to stay in the match Andreescu sped to 15-40, 23 minutes after being on the cusp of victory. The next match point was saved by an ace, but the third got clubbed. She looks like someone who can do anything they want in this game.
Williams fought back in the second set but couldn’t get back on level terms with her rival