With the 2019 US Open in the books, it's time to look back at some of the biggest storylines on the women's side from the past fortnight at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
A Star is Born
Bianca Andreescu received a lot of pre-tournament hype, and the 19-year-old Canadian somehow exceeded it, taking home the title in her first career US Open with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Serena Williams in the championship match. Her ability to bounce back after blowing a 5-1 second-set lead made the victory even more impressive than if Andreescu had just closed it out on her first match point with what would have been a 6-3, 6-1 rout. Fully recovered from the shoulder injury that limited her to just one match between Miami in March and Toronto in August, Andreescu is 45-4 on the year and looks poised to be a dominant force for years to come, having risen to No. 5 in the world and climbing. Like Naomi Osaka after last year's US Open, Andreescu is the woman to beat on tour until further notice.
Serena's Finals Woes Continue
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me four times, and it's an undeniable trend. Serena has now been to four Grand Slam finals since capturing her 23rd, and each time, she's failed to match Margaret Court's record of 24 while getting swept away in straight sets. To her credit, Williams – who turns 38 later this month – keeps reaching this stage, often in dominant fashion, thus putting forth a firm rebuttal to any whispers that Father Time is catching up to her. The problem in these finals seems to be inside her head – the one shot you have complete control over is your first serve, and Williams made only 43 percent against perhaps the most punishing second-serve returner on the women's tour in Saturday's final. It's impossible to write off someone as great as Serena, but it's really starting to feel like she might end up stuck on 23 forever.
Movement Atop the Rankings
This wasn't the way she wanted to get it, but Ashleigh Barty has been elevated to the No. 1 ranking despite losing in the fourth round to Qiang Wang, as Naomi Osaka also lost in the fourth round to Belinda Bencic and was defending points from taking home the title last year. Fellow fourth-round loser Karolina Pliskova moves up a spot to No. 2 while semifinalist Elina Svitolina jumps two spots to No. 3, with Osaka falling to fourth. It certainly seems like Andreescu will hold the top spot by this time next year if her health holds up, but she'll have to settle for fifth for now, jumping 32 ranking points ahead of Wimbledon champion Simona Halep. Other big movers include Wang (up six spots to a career-best No. 12) and fellow quarterfinalist Johanna Konta (up five spots to No. 11). No. 16 Madison Keys and No.18 Anastasija Sevastova both tumbled down seven spots from their previous marks after having the points from their respective semifinal runs from 2018 replaced by a fourth-round exit (Keys) and third-round exit (Sevastova).
Coco's No Contender (Yet)
Coco Gauff is rightfully generating plenty of buzz, having reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and third round at the US Open at the age of 15, but she's not quite ready to contend for major titles the way Jennifer Capriati was at her age in the early 1990's. She won just six games at Wimbledon against Halep and three against Osaka in Flushing, showing that while Gauff's combination of talent and determination is enough to overcome lesser opponents in early rounds, there's still a major gap between her and the tour's big-name players. That gap will certainly close, as it's important to reiterate that Gauff won't be 16 until March of 2020, but her short-term stock looks a little over-inflated for a player still in search of her first win over an opponent ranked in the top 40.
A Changing of the American Guard
With the 24-year-old Keys tumbling down the rankings and 26-year-old Sloane Stephens losing in the first round after posting an 11-1 record at the previous two US Opens, it's fair to wonder whether their days as the faces of non-Serena American tennis are numbered. While she lost to Keys in the third round, 20-year-old Sofia Kenin is breathing down Keys and Stephens' necks in the rankings at No. 20, and 18-year-old Amanda Anisimova is already ranked No. 26, even though she had to skip this tournament for personal reasons. Then, there's Gauff and the other half of the McCoco doubles team, Catherine McNally, who is just 17 herself and was the only player to take a set off Serena until her loss in the final. Taylor Townsend also made a name for herself at this tournament at age 23, knocking off Halep and taking Andreescu to three sets in the Round of 16. Stephens and Keys are the clear-cut No. 2 and No. 3 Americans for now, but there's a good chance that they will have been surpassed by at least one member of this next-gen group by this time next year, with Anisimova the most likely to make a leap into the top 10 in 2020.
Kvitova's Stateside Struggles Continue
For some reason, Petra Kvitova has never been able to unlock her top form at the US Open. It's the only Grand Slam at which the two-time Wimbledon champ has failed to reach the semifinals, and she took a further step back this year with a 6-4, 6-4 second-round loss to Andrea Petkovic for her earliest US Open exit since 2011. This information isn't really useful in the short term, but Kvitova's struggles at this tournament are something to keep in mind when the 2020 US Open rolls around.