The best shot of the night at the Aurora Games' tennis event was when Canada's Bianca Andreescu pummeled a forehand crosscourt winner so fast that her opponent, Victoria Azarenka, just stood rooted to her spot and watched the ball disappear into the stands.
The 19-year-old breakout star from Canada is having a moment. She's comfortable in her skin, keeps the audience engaged and does a little bit of harmless trash-talking now and then. Above all, she has an unending thirst to win -- even in exhibition games like the Aurora Games. (She beat Azarenka to give Team Americas the win over Team World.)
When the referee called an Azarenka return that was clearly out "in," Andreescu bantered with the ref. And when Azarenka tried to give her the point, she said, "No, that's OK, you will need it." When the crowd yelled "review, review," she cried, "There is no review today!"
"A little trash talk here and there never hurts anyone and makes it more fun," Andreescu said.
Heading into next week's US Open, Andreescu reflected on her mind-bending 2019 season, one that saw her beat top seeds such as Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina and Angelique Kerber to win Indian Wells, her first WTA Tour victory. The win propelled her to No. 24 in the rankings. Just when the tennis world thought it had found a new teenage phenom, she withdrew from the fourth round of the Miami Open with a right shoulder injury, missing most of the clay season since the French Open in May.
Then the Rogers Cup happened. It was her first tournament post-recovery, and she didn't have any expectations.
"I was just really happy to be back on court because I didn't want to take advantage," she said. "When you're off for so long, all you want to do is be back on court and be playing."
And she made the most of it, advancing to the women's final by beating top-10 players such as Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova, setting up a clash with Serena Williams. It was in the final that Andreescu saw Williams suffering from back spasms, an injury she was only too familiar with.
"Players have to go through that, and Serena has been through that so many times and she knows when to push it and when to just stop, and unfortunately that was a day she just had to stop," she said. "But, I felt for her so much. I just wanted to give her a hug, and I told her, 'You're a beast, you're going to bounce back quickly.' I am sure she is going to do well at the US Open. And who knows? Maybe I can play her again."
With the US Open less than a week away, Andreescu said she is feeling good about her preparation and wants to carry the momentum from the Rogers Cup forward. She has a full-time physiologist working with her after her shoulder injury, has changed up her diet and is putting in more time with her recovery process.
"I think I can do big things at the US Open," she said.