Making her US Open debut, Canadian, Cincinnati and Rogers Cup champion Bianca Andreescu has been having the best year of her career so far. The 15th seed at Flushing Meadows pulled off a stunning 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 win over a player with a phenomenal story of her own " the American Taylor Townsend.
Much has been said about Andreescu's bumper year, but her playing style is simultaneously specialist, and still, an all-court game, the likes of which most of us have not seen in some time. It's one that's really hard to put a finger on, whether you're watching her tennis or playing against it.
Both Andreescu and Townsend, in their own ways, have brought variation back to the game. Men's and women's games have progressively shifted towards baseline almost completely, and until Townsend herself at this US Open, not many had seen the style making a comeback.
With Andreescu, all-court play is back, and if her track record so far is anything to go by, it's here to stay. At 19, the World No 15 is already playing some very clever strategic tennis, investing in tactical shots rather than just power-hitting from the baseline. Today, even as Townsend varied her own game to put up a battle, Andreescu was able to combat everything that the American had in her arsenal.
For the Canadian, power isn't a problem either. She has all of it, and more; whether her opponent calls for aggressive tennis or defensive tennis, she's able to play it all. When Townsend frequently came up to the net " the same strategy that has paid such rich dividends for her this US Open " Andreescu successfully broke her thrice.
She also has speed. Quicker than average on her first serve, Andreescu was serving at an average of 102mph (around 165km/h) " faster than the average for women's singles by around 7km/h. She also has placement and strategic knowledge. Whether the game is physical or mental, the teen truly does have it all.
While she hit some great forehands down the line, Andreescu's backhand was exquisite too, and no matter where Townsend sent her scrambling for shots, the Canadian was all over them. A heavy hitter from the baseline, as she showed so convincingly in the first set, Andreescu was absolutely consistent on service and returns.
In the first set, Andreescu won 70 percent of her first serve points, and saved four of five break points; in a set that was far, far closer than the scoreline would indicate, the teenager thoroughly kept her cool. That would hold her in excellent stead in the second set, when Townsend found another level of tennis and her own variation in technique.
Townsend, whose older sister, Symone, is a baseliner, may have been referring to some of those notes during the changeover, but whatever those notes were, they certainly helped the American and then some. In addition to her phenomenal game, Townsend also has a cool head that many seniors on the WTA and ATP circuits could only hope for. Down a staggering four match points at the end, she still forced her rival to serve out the match, managing to pull out some brilliant forehands at the most crunch of times.
Before today's match, and even after, Andreescu had said she wanted to work on her passing shots. She said it post her ouster of 2019 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki earlier, and once again, today after her win against Townsend, and if the latest result is anything to go by, it appears that that particular piece of homework is something the Canadian teen has already worked on.
Andreescu's final set " combating some great serving from Taylor Townsend and nerves to match " saw the Canadian unleash a plethora of shots, slicing, spinning, volleying and drop-shotting to keep the American, trying to vary her own game, on her toes. It worked.
The match eventually Andreescu's way, and there are some points it firmly drove home. First, the future of women's tennis is no longer the future, but the present. No longer is it about an upcoming generation, or players "waiting in the wings" for their turn to shine; they are firmly not just on stage, but in the limelight and making their mark.
Second, women's tennis is seeing something men's tennis is yet to witness " a wider variation in gameplay than we have seen in some time. There's Townsend, the specialist serve-and-volleyer, Andreescu, who is the consummate all-court player, and Belinda Bencic, who pulled off an excellent win over the defending champion Naomi Osaka with some all-court tennis of her own.
The ability to serve big and fast is prided today, but that, coupled with the ability to build the longer points to attack and defend all the same, while still managing to change up your game based on what your opponent is dishing out? That is Bianca Andreescu in a (very loaded) nutshell.
With her prodigious skills in every department, there is no doubt Andreescu has what it takes to go to the very top of the women's game. But at 19, she has already had to cope with serious injuries, many of which other tennis players have suffered much older, and been sidelined by.
Only last year, Andreescu was knocked out of the US Open in the first round of qualifying in straight sets. This year, two Premier titles and a climb of 92 spots on the rankings later, she'll contest Elise Mertens for a spot in the semi-finals and a chance to win her first Major title on her debut at the venue.
With a cumulative age of 42 years " only three years older to Venus Williams and four years older to the oldest man in the singles draw, Roger Federer " both players brought about a resurgence in just how rich is the variety that the game has to give.