Record-chasing Serena Williams to meet teen Andreescu in US Open final

Serena Williams, who turns 38 this month, cruised into a 10th US Open final Thursday by brushing aside fifth seed Elina Svitolina. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2019

Record-chasing Serena Williams to meet teen Andreescu in US Open final

  • Williams cruised into a 10th US Open final Thursday by brushing aside fifth seed Elina Svitolina
  • Williams is seeking to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles

NEW YORK: Serena Williams will face Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu for the US Open title as the American set herself up for another attempt to clinch a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title.
Williams, who turns 38 this month, cruised into a 10th US Open final Thursday by brushing aside fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1, earning her 101st win at the tournament to draw level with Chris Evert for the most in history.
Williams is seeking to match Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles and will play 19-year-old Andreescu, who defeated Belinda Bencic 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, on Saturday in her bid for a record seventh US Open triumph.
“To be in yet another final, it seems honestly crazy. But I don’t really expect too much less,” said Williams, who is through to her 33rd major final.
“I’ve had so many chances to pass it (Court’s record) and to have a lot more, but it’s cool because I’m playing in an era with so many — five eras with so many amazing players.”
She won her first Grand Slam title at the 1999 US Open — before Andreescu was even born — but has lost her last three major finals since capturing the 2017 Australian Open crown while pregnant. She hasn’t won the US Open since 2014.
Williams fought off six break points across her opening three service games before finding her rhythm to dispatch Wimbledon semifinalist Svitolina in 70 minutes, hitting 34 winners against just 20 unforced errors.
“I know how (Svitolina) can play, she’s such a good player,” Williams said. “Obviously two semis in a row is really hard to do and I just wanted to not get off to a slow start and I wanted to hang on in there.”
Williams, who was beaten by Simona Halep in the Wimbledon final in July, returns to the championship match in New York a year on from her infamous meltdown in a loss to Naomi Osaka overshadowed by controversy.
Svitolina, 24, was attempting to become just the second Ukrainian to play in a Grand Slam singles final after Andrei Medvedev, who lost in five sets to Andre Agassi at the 1999 French Open.
“On the important moments, she steps up, always steps up, always brings her best game,” Svitolina said.
“She knows what she has to do. She has unbelievable strength. She gives lots of power. There’s lots of power behind her shots all the time. That’s what makes her unbelievable, legendary tennis player.”
Andreescu, who fell in US Open qualifying the past two years, continued her meteoric rise on her main draw debut in New York to overcome former Swiss prodigy Bencic.
The 15th-seeded Canadian played catch-up for much of the opening set and saved a set point at 4-5 with a forehand winner, but she rattled off the first five points of the tie-break and sealed it when Bencic swatted a forehand long.
Bencic, the 13th seed, raced 5-2 ahead with a double break in the second set but Andreescu refused to buckle and reeled off the final five games to set up a rematch of last month’s Toronto final against Williams, who retired from that clash with a back injury.
“It’s just surreal. I really don’t know what to say. It’s a dream come true playing Serena in the finals of the US Open. It’s crazy, it’s crazy,” Andreescu said.
“I think it’s just all the hard work I’ve put in through the years. If someone told me a year ago I would be in the US Open final this year, I’d tell them they were crazy.”
Andreescu is trying to become the first Canadian singles Grand Slam champion, and could be the fourth first-time major champion in five years to win the women’s US Open title.
“It was really just about some points that turned everything around. Also, in the second set, I think I had so many break chances which I didn’t use. But I think she played the best on them,” Bencic said.
“She totally deserves to be in the final.”


Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

Updated 20 October 2020

Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

  • Barca have not won since 2015, but since then have never embarked on a new campaign amid so much disarray

MADRID: Despite managing to hang onto Lionel Messi, Barcelona begin its Champions League campaign with reduced expectations after one of their worst seasons in years.
The Catalan club appears to lack its confidence from previous seasons following an embarrassing elimination to Bayern Munich and a troubled off-season in which it nearly lost its talisman.

“Knowing what happened recently, we are not the top favorite,” coach Ronald Koeman said on Monday ahead of the team's debut in this season's competition against Hungarian club Ferencvaros. “But we are a team that can go far.”

Koeman arrived to put Barcelona back on track shortly after the 8-2 collapse against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, which capped their first season without a title since 2007-08.

“Barcelona always plays to win titles, in the league and in Europe, but there are other strong teams,” Koeman said.

Barcelona have not  won the Champions League since 2015, but since then they had never embarked on a new campaign in the competition amid so much disarray.

The club avoided losing Messi after he said he wanted to leave, but it continued to endure political turmoil and even financial difficulties. President Josep Bartomeu is facing a censure motion that could force him to leave his post before the end of the year.

Koeman was given the task of revamping the first team, and he quickly got rid of veterans such as Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, but the club failed to bring in any of the players he wanted in the transfer window.

Koeman said Messi is fine despite scoring just once so far this season.

“Maybe his performance could be better, but I see him happy,” Koeman said. “I see him training well and focused. I have nothing to complain about him in that sense.”

He said “a bit of bad luck” has played a role in keeping the Argentina star from scoring more goals so far. Koeman also downplayed criticism of Antoine Griezmann for his recent poor performances, though he admitted that “everyone in the attack” can improve.

Barcelona opened the Spanish league with two convincing wins under Koeman, but then it drew 1-1 with Sevilla at home and lost 1-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Hungarian champions Ferencvaros return to the Champions League for the first time since 1995. They needed to get through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage.

The other Group G teams are Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv.

“We want to start with the right foot,” Koeman said. “We want to win the match and gain tranquility.”