I had an idea of what I’d say in my WordPress post today. I didn’t want to talk about tennis matches every day … but here I am at the US Open. What can I say with a different slant? I could talk about a pioneer, someone who has led, broken new ground. “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” Actually, a woman – Billie Jean King. She fought for women to be recognized in the world of tennis, and for female players to be paid as much as the men.
But dear Billie Jean, the time is not right to talk about you. I will do that later. You have been nudged aside momentarily by Bianca Andreescu, the Canadian winner of the 2019 US Open. She was playing against Greece’s Maria Sakkari, another charismatic player. Their match started last night at 10:45 and ended at … 2:15 am! I was going to write about Bianca developing a cramp near the end and grunting it out anyway, hobbling from side to side, trying to reach Maria’s laser shots. Then I’d mention getting home at 3:00, and the precious few hours of sleep.
But dear Bianca, the time is not right to talk about you. I’ve just come out of a match on Arthur Ashe – Canada’s Leylah Fernandez versus Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, the fifth ranked player in the world. Elina was in masterful control, just as she has been for years. She is seen as one of the two best players never to have one a Grand Slam tournament (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open). The other player knocking on the door is Karolina Pliskova.
All Leylah has done so far in the tournament is beat two players who have been number one in the world – Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber. Anticipating this afternoon’s match, one tennis journalist had this to say about Leylah:
Svitolina’s gift of a draw continues. Fernandez looks like a star of the future, but she’s also way over her head at this stage.
The two warriors went toe-to-toe. Three long sets, totalling almost two-and-a-half hours. Many long rallies of more than ten shots. Leylah finding severe angles to pull Elina off court and then blasting the ball into the empty corner. Elina fluidly finding the open spaces with her controlled aggression.
I was enthralled with the speed of the shots, with Leylah throwing her arm to the sky after hitting a winner, drawing the crowd into a massive roar. And we thousands of human beings filled the space with noise.
As a match duration of 2:23 ticked over to 2:24, a final shot sailed long over the baseline, and the contest was over. We rose as one and bellowed our approval. The miracle continues.