• Williams was looking for her record 24th Grand Slam title but she fell just short.
• Meghan Markle was among the crowd in New York to see the 19-year-old win.
The Duchess of Sussex flew across the Atlantic to see her friend pick up a 24th Grand Slam title but instead witnessed the dramatic birth of a new superstar in tennis.
In what was only her fifth time in a Grand Slam main draw Bianca Andreescu fought off the rolling thunder of a late recovery from Serena Williams to become the US Open champion at just 19. Before 24,000 baying fans in the vast Arthur Ashe Stadium she turned in a command performance of bravery and skill to win 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 40 minutes.
Seeing a 5-1 lead disappear in the second set, Andreescu decisively broke for the sixth time on a third match point, unleashing a forehand return winner down the court.
After embracing her parents in the stands she took receipt of a cheque for £3.2million, having become the first player from north of the border to win a Grand Slam in the post-1968 Open era.
Andreescu admitted the crowd had nearly got to her at the end: “This year has been a dream come true. It wasn’t easy at all. I know you guys wanted Serena to win, so I’m sorry,” she told the stadium.
“I try not to focus on who I’m playing and I’m really proud with how I dealt with everything. I was expecting Serena to fight back, that’s why she is a true champion. I’m glad with how I managed.”
Williams said: “I was just fighting and trying to stay out there, the fans started cheering so hard it made me play a bit better. Bianca played an unbelievable match.”
The American later described it as ‘the worst match I have played all tournament.’
In the final analysis the great American, nearly 38, suffered a particularly lamentable day with her serve as she lost her fourth straight Grand Slam final since coming back as a parent eighteen months ago. Two have been to seasoned baseline scrappers, two against players on a meteoric rise.
Her first serve landed in only 44 per cent of the time, having been at 60 per cent this fortnight up to the final. There was also the ignominy of eight double faults.
Yet her biggest problem was the Canadian, ranked 208 this time last year and a loser in the qualifying event first round. Possessing a brilliantly versatile game and no little courage, looks like she can achieve anything she wants in this game.
Wimbledon missed out on seeing her due to a shoulder injury but this was, extraordinarily, the eighth time out of eight this season that she has been beaten a top 10 opponent.
From that point of view there was no shame for Williams in coming off second best, and many parts of her game were functioning well.
She has looked in better shape this tournament but must be wondering where her record-equalling 24th Major is going to come from, having not won one now since January 2017.
At least there was no behavioural drama this time around to distract from a superb display from the new champion.
With British royalty sitting prominently next to coach Patrick Mouratoglou there seemed little danger of any surreptitious hand signaling.
The US Open was keen to avoid any repetition of last year’s drama and handed the umpiring duties to experienced British official Alison Hughes, for whom this was a 21st Grand Slam final. The ovation Williams received when walking onto court would have turned some teenagers’ legs to maple syrup, but it was clear from the outset that the Canadian would not be fazed.
Faced with a highly mobile player at the other end capable of soaking up the pressure, as was the case against Simona Hale at Wimbledon, there were several wild and belligerent slaps into the net as the veteran fell behind early.
Hughes was doing her best to sedate the feverish crowd as Williams faced five breakpoints to prevent going behind 5-2. Each time the American was equal to the task, but just to stay in the match she was needing to play better than in her recent Grand Slam finals.
Williams was cursing her serve as she sat at the change of ends, but much good it did her. The teenager saved a breakpoint in the second set opener and then broke for 2-0 when presented with fourth double fault from the game’s greatest server ever.
The American finally got a break back for 2-1, but only courtesy of a fortunate net cord. She was again bemoaning her serve to her support box when she fell behind 3-1, with the brilliantly versatile Canadian still showing no signs of nerves.
These only started to surface as the finishing line came into view when Williams crunched a return winner on her first match point at 5-1. Amid the cacophony, she drew level, with the crowd saluting every point for the home player like a last-minute winner. Twenty-three minutes later Andreescu forged her second chance, and like a true champion, she did not blink.