Canadians cheered Bianca Andreescu at viewing parties, sports bars and even at the Toronto International Film Festival as she made sports history on Saturday.
Fans were rapt as the 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., became the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam title, taking on the prolific Serena Williams at the US Open and coming out victorious.
Messages of support came from the likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and acting legend Christopher Plummer.
“You’ve made history and made a whole country very proud,” Trudeau tweeted.
Plummer, meanwhile, was only able to watch the first set before attending the world premiere of his film “Knives Out” at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“What’s the score?” he asked as soon as he hit the red carpet. “As a Canadian, I would like to say ‘Go get her, Bianca!'”
Watching the match was also a challenge for organizers and competitors in a local club tournament in Edmonton that was scheduled long ahead of the Andreescu-Williams contest.
There was no TV in the small clubhouse where the Saville Community Sports Centre club championships went ahead on nine outdoor courts. No wi-fi, either.
Spectators in the bleachers looked down at their phones for the latest developments from the match in New York, then looked up to follow the games in front of them.
Instead of being inspired to pick up a racket, at least one player sought to put hers down.
“There’s a young girl, I think she’s 10 or 11 years old, and she asked if we could change her match. And how could you say no to her, because she wants to watch Bianca,” said tournament director Chad Miller, noting that he was recording the match on his PVR.
Patrick Devaney watched the match from a downtown Edmonton pub.
“I was happy that she beat the best, and I think Serena was happy to pass it on to her,” he said.
Devaney, who follows tennis and said he played in his youth, shook his head when asked if he was surprised Andreescu was the victor.
“No, I wasn’t. Because of her attitude. Because she’s so determined. She’s so positive,” he explained.
Across the table, Jeff Henwood admitted he’d picked Williams to win, but was very happy she didn’t.
“It’s rare to be around a whole bunch of people in Canada cheering on a tennis star. It was great,” he said.
Jordan Kupinisky, a tennis fan who brought his two sons to Tennis Canada’s Toronto viewing party to see the match, said it was “amazing” for the next generation to see a Canadian get so far at a world-class championship.
“My son was at the Rogers Cup this year, as a ball boy, and he got to meet her. And it was amazing,” Kupinisky said.
Justin Kupinisky, 13, said, “we got to see her work ethic and how hard she works to get to this stage.”
Andreescu’s ability to overcome injury and rise quickly within the ultra competitive world of tennis was a theme echoed by many of the people who watched her fend off a Williams rally late in the second set to win the match 6-3, 7-5.
With the win, which earned Andreescu a US$3.85 million prize, she’ll be No. 5 when the Womens Tennis Association rankings are published Monday. She began the 2019 season ranked 178th in the world.
Mario Meffe of Vaughan, Ont., who watched the match with his three daughters — aged 12, 10 and 7 — said they see how hard Andreescu has fought to win her matches.
“It’s going to motivate more kids to grab rackets and start playing.”
Seventeen-year-old Anahita Behpour of Toronto said she doesn’t play tennis but “she inspires me to try my best in anything I do — sports, school.”
Andreescu’s hard work has also earned her some high-profile fans in the sports world.
“Such amazing support for Serena at Flushing Meadows… but you should hear the entire country explode north of the border,” figure skater Scott Moir tweeted.
Mikael Kingsbury, the freestyle skier who won the Lou Marsh Trophy for the best Canadian athlete last year, also tweeted his support.
“Yo @Bandreescu_ anytime you want to come take the #LouMarsh I have it in Montreal.. its all yours now,” he wrote.
The teen is also popular among the Romanian-Canadian community, who already count her among the greats.
Adrian Ardelean, a Montreal-based Romanian radio host, was at a viewing party at a local bar to glean some reaction for his weekly show on Sunday.
“There’s been an explosion in her career and we hope she’ll be able to continue because she’s been able to string together a lot of strong matches.”
Meanwhile, Mont-Tremblant resident Pierre Paquin had been trying to find a place to watch the match with his wife Michele in Montreal when they found a bar showing the final.
“It’s fantastic, it’s surprising given where she was one year ago,” Paquin said. “But having seen her play, it’s not surprising.”
By David Paddon in Toronto, Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton and Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.
The Canadian Press