If there is one word that sums up Bianca Andreescu, it is sassy. She may be only 19 — and was playing in the main draw of the US Open for the first time — but Andreescu strolled around Flushing Meadows with her shoulders pulled back and her smile on full beam.
And that was before she beat Serena Williams 6-3, 7-5 in the final yesterday. Self-belief is contagious. Andreescu looked utterly confident she could win the US Open well before she even reached the final, and many pundits also quickly became believers.
ESPN commentator John McEnroe said during the first week: "She's one of the best young competitors I've seen in 10 years."
If you are thinking "Bianca who?" you are not alone. This young woman has arrived in a hurry — a tennis version of Mary Poppins descending from the sky.
When the 2019 season started, Andreescu had played only six tour-level matches, mostly via wild cards. Since then, she has lost just four matches, winning titles at Indian Wells and her home tournament in Toronto. Better still, she has faced seven top-10 players and beaten the lot. She started the tournament ranked No 15 in the world and will now climb to No 5.
"When I play these players, my best tennis comes out," Andreescu said on Friday outside Arthur Ashe Stadium. "Because I have no choice, right?"
Does she not she feel nerves?
"Well, I did. More in Auckland, though. [Her first tournament of the season, where she took out Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the final.] That was the first time I had played these top players. But then again, the experience is catching up to me at this point, so I am feeling way more comfortable playing on these big stages."
Comfortable barely covers it. Andreescu exudes self-possession. If Naomi Osaka gives off the vibe of a geeky genius outsider in a high-school movie, Andreescu would be one of the in-crowd. Maybe the queen bee, admired and feared in equal measure.
The tour has been dominated by introverts of late, with the first three majors of the year going to Osaka, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep. So Andreescu makes a fun contrast, even if not all her fellow professionals are convinced.
There was a revealing moment in the Toronto final a fortnight ago when Serena Williams was forced to quit with a back injury.
Andreescu went to her distraught opponent, as she wept on her chair, and offered words of comfort as if the two women were peers.
"I've been through so many injuries already," she said. "This sucks." Williams approved, complimenting Andreescu for her "old soul", but others might have thought: "Who do you think you are?"
That was certainly the reaction of last year's Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber after a three-set loss in Miami in March. Normally so phlegmatic, Kerber was irritated enough by Andreescu's medical timeout in the first set that she complained "biggest drama queen ever" as the two shook hands.
Born in Mississauga, 20 minutes from Toronto, Andreescu returned to her parents' native Romania at the age of seven, where she started playing tennis with her father Nicu.
"I was 10 when I first beat him. We were both competitive and he had to do sprints on the court as a forfeit."
Andreescu seems to have maintained a more normal teenage existence than many of her peers.
"I am a pretty outgoing person. I know I'm an only child, some people think that only children are weird. But I had really good friends I saw every time I was back home."
What did they think when they saw her beating grand-slam champions?
"They're always saying they expect it. I also graduated high school. It's definitely not easy [to combine professional tennis with studying]. But I believe knowledge is power."
She comes across as a classic wide-eyed teen — but one who happens to be equipped with every shot in the tennis handbook.
Her forehand could fell a tree. She can hit it in so many different ways — flat, loopy, inside-out — that pundit Brad Gilbert is already calling it the best on the tour. But Andreescu does not batter her opponents to bits as much as tease them with a bewildering array of slices, drop shots and lobs.
Her eureka moment, she says, came when she asked fellow Romanian speaker Halep for advice during the 2016 Rogers Cup in Montreal.
"We were doing a kids-day thing and I went up to her. She said I should stop playing juniors and start playing pro events. That's what I started doing."
Had Halep seen her play, or was it general advice?
"That I don't know. I wasn't really someone back in 2016."
But you are someone now? She smiled. "Yes, I think so."