Scott Ferguson is back with a preview for the women's final day at the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York.
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Bianca Andreescu vs Serena Williams
The women's final of 2019 has some striking similarities to that of last year - Serena Williams in stunning form in the quest for Grand Slam singles title #24, and a first-time finalist yet to reach the legal drinking age in New York.
Six-time champion Serena Williams has had difficulty securing the title which would draw her level with Margaret Court, losing her last three major finals and five of her last seven.
She was a strong favourite in every one of those matches, carrying on a trend which stretches back at least to the start of the decade. Can anything be taken from this anomaly?
It sounds ridiculous to think she might be choking in the spotlight but there are grounds to draw that conclusion. She's getting older, and thus it become harder to recover match after match. The exact reason is hard to put a finger on, after all, three is a very tiny sample.
In the quarter-final against Qiang Wang, she was unstoppable. Against Elena Svitolina, she was dominant without being perfect.
It is the shot execution when all the spotlight is on her which troubles me. Naomi Osaka here last year and Simona Halep at Wimbledon two months ago went on the attack from the outset and immediately put her under pressure she couldn't deflect.
But on the other hand, she claims to be in the best shape of her post-pregnancy period. A fitter body leads to a fitter mind, less fatigue affecting shot selection and execution.
Canadian Bianca Andreescu had never even played in the main draw of a major tournament before this year.
She qualified in Melbourne, losing in the second round. She then won a challenger event in Newport followed by reaching the semis in Acapulco (beaten in a tight third set by Sofia Kenin).
She gained a wildcard into Indian Wells and promptly won that. She reached the fourth round in Miami immediately after before succumbing to a shoulder injury.
The clay season was a write-off apart from one win at Roland Garros and then another retirement due to injury. She missed the grass season completely and went directly to her home event in Toronto, a Premier level tournament.
It was back to the old form on hardcourt, winning five rounds and then claiming the title when Serena retired after four games due to back spasms. Andreescu's record on hardcourt in 2019 is a mind-blowing 41-4, a stat which has seen her climb from #152 on New Years's Day, #15 today and almost certainty in the top ten next week.
Andreescu plays a very aggressive game and will look to control this match from the outset. Williams isn't the player who will retrieve balls all day and force her opponent to keep swinging, she is the one who capitalises when players don't take their chances against her.
After the non-event of the Toronto final (lasted just four games), these two have had a taste of playing each other, a quick look to get comfortable with the flight and pace of the ball coming back from the other side of the net.
The Canadian hasn't had it all her own way in the last few rounds, needing three sets to defeat Taylor Townsend in R4 and again in the quarters over Elise Mertens.
The semi-final win over Bencic was only two sets, but a longer match on the clock than either of the two previous rounds.
That was also her MO in other successful tournaments this year - she allows her opponents enough opportunity to beat her, but just wears them down in the end. So if anything, that suggests three sets might be the more likely method of victory for her, boosted to 13/2 if you need to take an interest.
Holding an outright ticket on Andreescu at 14/1 (1pt), I'm reluctant to get involved again just for the sake of it. Serena is favourite and deservedly so, but at around 1/3 there's no point hedging. Andreescu will come out all guns blazing and I'll ride that ticket all the way to the end.