|US Open 2019|
|Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 26 Aug – 8 Sep|
|Coverage: Live text and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for Live Guide.|
Serena Williams says she has not thought about her controversial defeat against Naomi Osaka in last year’s US Open final as she goes again for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
The American, 37, called umpire Carlos Ramos a “thief” and a “liar” as he docked her a game amid extraordinary scenes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
She meets Canadian Bianca Andreescu, 19, in this year’s final on Saturday.
On last year’s final, Williams said: “It hasn’t really crossed my mind.”
Williams is competing in her 10th US Open singles final, 20 years after her maiden victory in New York, while Andreescu is playing in her first Grand Slam final on her main-draw debut at Flushing Meadows.
Andreescu was not even born when Williams won her first Grand Slam title here in 1999.
“I remember watching her when I was about 10. I watched her win most of her Grand Slam titles,” Andreescu, seeded 15th, said.
“I’m sure she’s going to bring her A game. I’m going to try to bring my A game, too. Hopefully, I guess, may the best player win.”
Williams feeling ‘more relaxed’ as she aims for 24
Twelve months ago, Williams was at the centre of one of the most controversial moments in tennis history on her way to a two-set defeat by Japan’s Osaka.
The home favourite launched a furious tirade against Portuguese official Ramos after he punished her for receiving coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou and smashing a racquet as she grew more frustrated at the start of the second set.
That led to Ramos, who has not chaired a Williams match since, docking her a point and issuing the further punishment of a game’s penalty for a tirade questioning his integrity.
A poisonous atmosphere developed on Ashe as the New York crowd turned on Ramos with deafening boos.
Williams has refused to speak in detail about the incident publicly since, although said she felt “disrespected by a sport that I love” in a first-person piece published in American fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar in July.
That meeting against Osaka, who was left crying with sadness after clinching her first Grand Slam win, was Williams’ first US Open final since returning to the sport after the difficult birth of daughter Olympia a year earlier.
Williams also lost last year’s Wimbledon final against Angelique Kerber and was beaten again in this year’s final at the All England Club by Simona Halep.
Now she has a fourth opportunity to win that elusive 24th major – her first since becoming a mother – and says she is ready to dispel any doubts about her ability to win another major final.
“There are a lot of things that I’ve learned in the past, but I just have to go out there, above all, most of all, just stay relaxed,” she said.
“I think being on the court is almost a little bit more relaxing than hanging out with a two-year-old that’s dragging you everywhere. I think that’s kind of been a little helpful.”
Williams is aiming to equal Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles by beating Andreescu, which would then give her the opportunity to become the leading major winner at the Australian Open in January – where a stadium is named after Court.
Williams has not won a major since the 2017 Australian Open, when she was eight weeks pregnant.
After losing to an inspired Halep at Wimbledon, Williams said she was not feeling burdened by the weight of history as she chases Court’s tally.
“It seems like every Grand Slam final I’m in recently, it has been an unbelievable effort to get there,” Williams said.
“It would be interesting to see how it would be under different circumstances.”
Williams struggled with a knee problem going into Wimbledon but has been injury-free at Flushing Meadows, looking sharp and as powerful as ever while dropping just one set on her way to the final.
A brutal quarter-final win against China’s 18th seed Wang Qiang lasted just 44 minutes, while Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina – expected to provide a tough test – was also overwhelmed in straight sets.
Early bloomer Andreescu aiming to join select group
While Williams might expect to be competing in another Grand Slam final, her opponent Andreescu says it is “crazy” that she will be playing in Saturday’s showpiece.
Twelve months ago, she lost in the first round of qualifying at Flushing Meadows and was ranked outside of the top 200 in the world.
But she has become the most talked about young player on the planet following a remarkable rise this year.
Andreescu, whose Romanian parents Nicu and Maria emigrated to Canada in the 1990s, had only played six tour-level matches at the turn of the year.
Since then she has won prestigious WTA Premier titles at Indian Wells and Toronto, rising to 15th in the world as a result and raking in £1.79m of her £1.97m career prize money.
Asked what her reaction would have been if somebody told her a year ago she would be facing Williams in the US Open final, she said: “I don’t think I would have believed them. It’s just crazy what a year can do.
“If someone would have said that a couple weeks ago, I think I would have believed them.”
Belief is not something Andreescu has in short supply, her confidence exuding in a marvellous all-round game which has the variety to pull opponents apart, as well as having a killer forehand already rated as one of the best in the game.
That fearlessness also shone through in her semi-final win over Swiss 13th seed Belinda Bencic where she saved six break points in the opening set and fought back from 5-2 down in the second to win 7-6 (7-3) 7-5.
“I think it’s just inside of me somehow. I think it’s just my passion for the game, as well,” she said.
“I expect a lot from myself, so I think that pressure also helps me do my best in matches.”
Andreescu has already earned six wins over top-10 players this year – Caroline Wozniacki, Svitolina, Kerber (twice), Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova – while she also led by an early break before Williams retired from their Rogers Cup final in Toronto last month with a back injury.
This run to the US Open final means she has won 13 straight matches and an extraordinary 44 of her 48 matches this season.
One more win will see her become the first teenager to win their first Grand Slam singles title since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon aged 17 in 2004.
She would also match Monica Seles’ record of winning a major in the Open era on only her fourth appearance in a Grand Slam main draw.
“I’ve always dreamed of this moment ever since I was a little kid. But I don’t think many people would have actually thought that it would become a reality,” Andreescu said.
“Being in the final is really special. Hopefully I can play a little bit better than I did in the semi-finals.”
|Routes to the US Open final|
|Serena Williams||Bianca Andreescu|
|First round||bt Maria Sharapova 6-1 6-1||bt Katie Volynets 6-2 6-4|
|Second round||bt Caty McNally 5-7 6-3 6-1||bt Kirsten Flipkens 6-3 7-5|
|Third round||bt Karolina Muchova 6-3 6-2||bt Caroline Wozniacki 6-4 6-4|
|Fourth round||bt Petra Martic 6-3 6-4||bt Taylor Townsend 6-1 4-6 6-2|
|Quarter-finals||bt Wang Qiang 6-1 6-0||bt Elise Mertens 3-6 6-2 6-3|
|Semi-finals||bt Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-1||bt Belinda Bencic 7-6 (7-3) 7-5|
Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon champion on BBC Radio 5 live
I think Serena has been feeling that extra bit of pressure since coming back from giving birth to Olympia which she didn’t have before, necessarily.
For me it comes down to the extra pressure she puts on herself, on her own shoulders.
We are very close friends and we talked about it at length after she lost to Sofia Kenin at Roland Garros and for some reason she just can’t get that extra pressure out of her mind.
She just feels she has to win this one, and it has to be that one that she’s going to get to 24 and then to 25.
I think she’ll be able to realise that it’s not the correct mindset to have and that she should feel confident that she is the better player.