NEW YORK – What a difference a year can make.
Twelve months ago Bianca Andreescu crashed out of US Open qualifying and didn't even bother to watch Serena Williams lose the final against then 20-year-old Naomi Osaka.
On Saturday, the 19-year-old was on court herself against Williams, beating the American icon 6-3, 7-5 - surviving a huge comeback to claim the trophy on her debut main draw appearance in New York.
Andreescu showed remarkable composure on the court and massive confidence after her win over one of the best players the women's game has ever had.
She insisted that Serena, the most feared opponent on the tour, was "intimidated" when she double faulted to give away the opening game.
And her thoughts when she reclaimed the lead at 6-5 after Williams roared from 5-1 down to 5-5 in the second were very similar.
"I told myself to put the goddamn ball inside the court and just breathe as much as I could because she was serving, first of all. I wanted to win the first point to show her that I am in it to win it. Did I win that first point? I don't even know," she said.
The Canadian did win the point from a Williams error and went on claim a victory she had for so long worked for.
"I've been dreaming of this moment for the longest time. I really believed that I could be at this stage. Since then, honestly I've been visualizing it almost every single day. For it to become a reality is just so crazy," she said.
"I guess these visualizations really, really work."
Andreescu, whose parents came to Canada from Romania in search of a better life, first gained fame in March when she lifted the prestigious Indian Wells trophy, beating three-time grand slam champion and former number one Angelique Kerber.
Injury-problems with retirements and withdrawals followed before she was healthy again to become the first Canadian to win the Toronto home event - in the final against Williams who had to retire with back problems after just four games.
That made Andreescu, who has not lost a match on court since February, a contender at Flushing Meadows, and gave the 15th seed huge confidence.
All this a year after being ranked outside the top 200 and playing in only her fourth main draw at the majors.
She won the respect of Williams in Toronto when she consoled the American, and readily admitted that she admires her for all she has done on and off the court.
She also acknowledged that their aggressive game is similar but at the same time she is not the least intimidated by her.
"I'm sure I'm not the only person that's looked up to her. She's an inspiration to many, many people, not only athletes. What she's done off the court, too. She's truly a champion," she said.
"I've really strived to be like her. Who knows? Maybe I can be even better."
Andreescu, who will climb to fifth in the next rankings Monday, is part of a young generation which has no fear against the big guns.
That flock of players also includes, among others, Osaka, French Open champ Ash Barty, New York semi-finalist Belinda Bencic, and up-and-coming American teenagers Catherine McNally and Coco Gauff.
"I want to make a name for myself. I know I have a different game style than many players on the tour right now. It's been working really, really well. It's been working to my advantage. I just want to keep improving it," Andreescu said.
With the trophy and a big cheque of 3.85 million dollars comes fame, which she is also ready to embrace, although it is new to her.
"I never really thought about being famous. My goals have been to just win as many Grand Slams as possible, become number one in the world. But the idea of fame never really crossed my mind," she said.
"I'm not complaining, though. It's been a crazy ride this year. I can definitely get used to this feeling."dpa