The SI Tennis crew highlights keys to the match and make predictions for the Williams-Andreescu final at the U.S. Open.
Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu will face off on Saturday with the U.S. Open trophy on the line. Williams will be aiming for her 24th Grand Slam singles title, which would tie Margaret Court for the all-time record. Andreescu, 19, is playing in her first major final.
The two have only faced off once previously—at this year's Rogers Cup final, where Williams retired due to injury while trailing 3-1 in the first et.
Our SI Tennis crew breaks down the final, which will begin at 4 p.m. EST on Saturday.
Keys to the match for Andreescu
Jon Wertheim: You would say “handle the biggest occasion of her career,” but that hardly seems like a concern for this nerveless 19-year-old. Part of what makes this story so remarkable: she not only meets every moment; she stares it down and kicks its ass. We keep wondering which Gen X star will break out first….now we have our answer. It’s an Alpha from Canada.
Andreescu won't be overwhelmed by the 23,000 fans (most rooting for her opponent) or the opportunity to win a Grand Slam. She’ll embrace that. But she needs to manage herself during the match. There will be times when Serena will tee off on a first serve or blast a forehand or play with unanswerable power. This can be demoralizing and cause the opponent to rethink their entire gameplan. Andreescu will need to resist that urge—say “too good” and move on the next point.
Andreescu comes armed with knives and glue traps as well as guns. If Serena is in a grove, Andreescu will to need to throw in moonballs and drop shots and offer a new look. She also needs to make a virtue of the fact she likely knows Serena’s game far better than Serena knows hers.
Stanley Kay: It’s a little too obvious to say that Andreescu should just keep doing what she’s been doing. But if she’s able to treat this match like almost any match—to the extent that’s possible—she can win this match. She needs to play loose and fearless; putting pressure on Williams’s serve early would boost her self-belief and perhaps remind her opponent of those three recent defeats in Grand Slam finals. An early break would also help take what will be an overwhelmingly pro-Serena crowd out of the match.
Daniel Rapaport: She'd do well to get off to a fast start, which would let Serena know that she's hear and she means business. She hasn't shown a hint of nerves on the big stages—here in New York or in Indian Wells or Toronto—but this is bigger-than-big. This is Major, with a capital m. It's imperative she doesn't get spooked by the moment or the opportunity. She's absolutely good enough to win this tennis match, if she thinks of it as just a tennis match.
Keys to the match for Williams
JW: Ironically, it distills to “handle the moment.” There is a major at stake. There is also history. There is symmetry, winning the same “home” major she won for the first time an even 20 years ago. There is also a storyline: exorcising assorted ghosts in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Serena has played dazzling tennis this tournament, certainly her last four matches. But in the past half-dozen majors, the issue hasn’t been her play match-to-match. It’s been Serena’s play on the final Saturday. If she serves well, gets early leads in both sets, and uses the crowd, it will making closing easier.
SK: It’s all about staying relaxed despite the pressure of a final. Andreescu can play free, with nothing to lose. Williams, on the other hand, is burdened by time—after all, she’s 38—and history: she’s chasing Margaret Court.
Her serve will be key. If she’s firing with precision, she’ll be fine—a strong serve, coupled with the exceptional movement we saw from her in the semifinals, will help ease the pressure. If her serve isn’t as strong as it’s been, she’ll be in for a battle.
Another key for Serena: Use the crowd. Arthur Ashe Stadium will be heavily for Williams. Get them into the match, and it will rattle her teenage opponent.
DR: Stay calm. Forget about the past three major finals, most importantly last year in the same stadium. Dictate points with the serve and don't get frustrated when Andreesccu tries to pump herself and the crowd up. Avoid unforced errors, particularly on the forehand side.
Who wins the match?
JW: You feel like the tennis fates will get it right. Serena to beat Andreescu and, more importantly to tie Margaret Court.
SK: I’m tempted to pick the 19-year-old here. She’s shown remarkable poise and confidence in this run to the final. But despite Serena’s recent history of collapsing in Grand Slam finals, I think the combination of her form, fitness and mentality entering this match—she seems relaxed, at least—give her the edge. She’ll get it done, but it won’t be easy. The 23-time Slam winner takes No. 24 in three hard-fought sets.
DR: Serena in straight sets. Andreescu will have her time, but this feels a teeny bit pre-mature.