Typically low-key affairs, viewing parties were anything but Saturday after Mississauga tennis star Bianca Andreescu fended off a late rally from Serena Williams at the U.S. Open to win Canada’s first ever Grand Slam singles title.
“This is historic,” said a fan at the Ontario Racquet Club in Mississauga, one of several area venues that hosted events for the final including a viewing party by Tennis Canada and gatherings held by Romanian-Canadian organizations (Andreescu’s parents are Romanian).
Rapt tennis fans in centres from Edmonton to Montreal gathered to watch Andreescu eclipse Carling Bassett-Seguso’s 1984 U.S. Open semifinal appearance.
Messages of support came from Canadian luminaries including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tweeted that she had made “a whole country very proud.” Andreescu’s ability to overcome injury and rise quickly impressed most who watched her hold off a Williams comeback attempt in the second set to win the match 6-3, 7-5.
With the win, which earned Andreescu a $ 3.85 million (U.S.) prize, she’ll be No. 5 when the Women’s Tennis Association rankings are published Monday. She began the 2019 season ranked 178th in the world.
“She’s a people’s favourite,” said Paul Morrell, chief operating officer of the 5,500-member Ontario Racquet Club, which has hosted under-18 national championships featuring many of Canada’s promising young players.
“I think people are gravitating to her for her attitude. She seems to be sincere, a little unfiltered.” he said.
Morrell has seen an immediate uptick in interest in the club during Andreescu’s run. “I know a lot of our junior players look up to her.”
DiManno: Bianca Andreescu beats the best to become the first Canadian Grand Slam champion
He noted a rise in interest in the sport in general with the success of several young Canadian players including Denis Shapovalov, who fell to France’s Gael Monfils in a five-set thriller in the third round at the U.S. Open, but said unusually large crowds have turned out to cheer on Andreescu throughout the tournament.
Fans at the ORC lauded Andreescu’s poise under pressure.
“She’s an unusual talent,” ORC member Steve Mueller yelled over the boos after a line call challenge by Williams was upheld. “She’s 19 years old and she’s not nervous. When it’s crunch time she steps up. You can’t teach that.”
Another spectator, Colin Perdue, said she displays a maturity well beyond her years.
“Bianca’s not intimated by the crowd (which included Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle),” said avid player Anna Weaser after the Canadian had won the first set. “She just manages to draw from it.”
Another fan, Colleen Brown, said its especially exciting for young players to watch someone who has trained in their midst climb the tennis ladder so stunningly fast.
“Just the fact that she is Canadian, the fact that she grew up playing around here is just wild,” Weaser added. “Our kids are all in the programs here and they’re so excited. I told my daughter I’ve never seen anything like this in my whole life but you get to see it now.”
Adrian Ardelean, a Montreal-based Romanian radio host, was at a viewing party at a local bar to glean some reaction for his weekly show on Sunday.
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“There’s been an explosion in her career and we hope she’ll be able to continue because she’s been able to string together a lot of strong matches.”
Meanwhile, Mont-Tremblant resident Pierre Paquin had been trying to find a place to watch the match with his wife Michele in Montreal when they found a bar showing the final.
“It’s fantastic, it’s surprising given where she was one year ago,” Paquin said. “But having seen her play, it’s not surprising.”