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Andreescu’s storybook U.S. Open run stands alone

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Most of us have never seen her lose.

That’s how fast and unexpected and remarkable this has been. Way back on March 1, in the semi-finals of the Mexican Open, a third-tier event in Acapulco, Bianca Andreescu fell in three sets to Sofia Kenin, then the 35th ranked player in the world. She took home a check for $11,500.

She had made a bit of noise earlier in the season, beating Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniaki in Auckland en route to the Australian Open as a qualifier, but beyond the tennis hard core, those victories hardly caused a ripple.

And before that, Andreescu was precisely as famous as you’d expect the 152nd ranked player in the world to be.

Then, immediately after Acapulco, Andredscu won Indian Wells, sort of the fifth major, and this crazy ride began.

Her only two losses since, a retirement and a walk-over, were forced by injury. Andreescu has otherwise been untouchable. The odd wobble here, the brief loss of form there, but no one has been able to beat her when she was able to finish a match, and there is every reason to believe that in this moment, she is the finest female tennis player on Earth.

That truth was, of course, hammered home on Saturday afternoon, when Andreescu defeated the greatest female player in history, Serena Williams, in straight sets in the final of the U.S. Open — the first Grand Slam victory by a Canadian.

It wasn’t quite prime time Serena, at age 37, but it was very, very good Serena, riding an emotional high after dominating her side of the draw. So no asterisks here. Just try and come up with a historical list of the players Andreescu wouldn’t have beaten that afternoon in Flushing Meadows.

The image of her victory, Andrescu lying on the court, spread eagled as though about to make a snow angel, staring into the New York sky, is already one that belongs on a stamp. She has been propelled over those eight months from obscurity to full-on national sports hero.

And we, as a country, have entered uncharted territory. You can start searching for comparables, but they just aren’t really there.

In tennis, Carling Bassett made it as far as the U.S. Open semis, and Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard both made Grand Slam finals – Bouchard also made it to two Grand Slam semis – and peaked at number three in the world. Perhaps it’s merely the power of hindsight that paints those results as unsustainable, but the truth is, none of them won, and for all of the excitement in the moment, it didn’t feel anything like this.

In other individual sports, there’s Mike Weir winning the Masters and Lennox Lewis winning the heavweight championship, Brooke Henderson’s recent triumphs and Ben Johnson and Donovan Bailey and a long list of Olympians who at least temporarily captured the country’s heart.

None of those, though, came so quickly, so out of the blue.

Emotionally, the can’t-stop-smiling part of this feels closest to the Raptors’ championship, not just because of She The North, but by the way something went from specific to universal so quickly, by the way it became one big, ecstatic social-media driven national hug.

And now to figure out who this young woman is, since there hasn’t really been time for that. Even the marketers are scrambling to catch up.

You will hear very much in the coming days about her parents and their classic, immigrant story (not a bad time to be reminded of just how Canadian that story is….), about her little dog Coco, about her coach Sylvain Bruneau, about her dogged rise through the ranks when no one was paying attention, about the sacrifices made, about her diet and training regimen, about how she might fare in Melbourne in January, about how she’ll approach the red clay of Roland Garros or the grass courts of Wimbledon next summer, about what it will be like to return to New York as a defending champion, with expectations turned on their head.

How Andreescu handles that whirlwind will be telling. But absolutely no one is doubting that she has the tools, and the varied, nuanced game, to continue to succeed at this level.

At age 19, it’s understandable that Andreescu doesn’t really have the words to describe what she’s living through. In some ways, she is processing it along with the rest of us.

But there is a look in her eyes that, in the context of what we have just witnessed, speaks to a level of confidence that only the greatest athletes possess. It’s as if she was shocked by the moment, yet absolutely unsurprised by the result.

Amazing enough when it comes from a Tom Brady or Sidney Crosby. On a whole other level when it comes from a teenager who has never been this way before.

Emotionally, it might never be so sweet and fresh and beautiful again, and Canadian sports fans have been historically conditioned to wait for bubbles to burst.

But there’s nothing to dread here. Instead sit back, savour what we’ve just witnessed, and imagine the journey to come.

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Pospisil, Shapovalov engineer Canada historic win over U.S. at Davis Cup

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Canada is heading to the quarter-finals at the inaugural Davis Cup Finals after sweeping a pair of singles matches against the United States on Tuesday.

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., clinched the victory in the best-of-three tie, beating Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Shapovalov, ranked a career-high 15th in the world, finished off No. 32 Fritz with an ace.

Earlier, Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil recorded his second major upset in as many days when the world No. 150 beat No. 36 Reilly Opelka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7).

Later, Americans Sam Querrey and Jack Sock took the doubles match against Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in a walkover.

Canada (2-0) has now clinched Group F after winning all four of its singles matches against the Americans and Italy.

Seven of the nine sets in singles matches went to tiebreaks, with Canada winning six of them.

It was Canada’s first win against the U.S., in 16 Davis Cup ties. Canada had a match record of 3-70 against the Americans entering Tuesday.

Vasek Pospisil celebrates his upset victory over Reilly Opelka of the U.S. on Tuesday at the Davis Cup Finals in Spain. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The 29-year-old Pospisil, from Vancouver, beat world No. 12 Fabio Fognini on Monday en route to Canada’s 2-1 win over Italy. Pospisil was a late replacement for Felix Auger-Aliassime (recovering from an ankle injury) against Italy.

The six-foot-11 Opelka, known for his big serve, fought off one match point against Pospisil in the second set to tie it at 6-6. But Pospisil rebounded to end it in two sets.

Pospisil, who reached a career-high No. 25 in the rankings in 2014, tumbled down the list after missing the first half of 2019 following back surgery.

But he has shown signs of progress in recent months, upsetting then-No. 9 Karen Khachanov at the U.S. Open before advancing to the round of 16 at the Shanghai Masters.

Playing a level down in Challengers earlier this fall, Pospisil captured two tournament titles in the U.S.

WATCH | Canada upsets Italy at Davis Cup: 

Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil notched a pair of upsets to lead Canada to a win over Italy on the opening day of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals. 1:52

Pospisil is now 19-18 in Davis Cup play.

Shapovalov, 20, also has been on a roll. He captured his first career ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open last month before reaching the final of the Paris Masters.

The winners of each of the six groups and the next two best teams advance to the quarterfinals. Canada will face either Belgium or Australia in the next round.

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Don Cherry comes back with a new show

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They may have knocked Don Cherry to the ice with a hit he didn’t see coming.

Now watch him get back up.

You people out there who want the 85-year-old Cherry back, here’s the news you have been hoping for.  You people who wanted him to fade away are out of luck as the former NHL coach of the year is going to be able to exercise his free speech, after all.

Don Cherry’s Grapevine is back once again. This time as a podcast.

Coach’s Corner may be “no more” as his one-time Hockey Night in Canada sidekick Ron MacLean announced on Saturday. Cherry was fired by Rogers and Sportsnet for his “you people” who “come here” comment that was misunderstood and later spun as discriminatory.

Cherry wanted his opportunity to properly explain it. Now he is going to get that chance.

You read it right: Don Cherry and his no-holds-barred views are coming back on the air.

The Toronto Sun has learned you won’t have to wait long for the first installment of the new Grapevine. It will drop Tuesday morning and be available on Spotify and other streaming services every Monday during the hockey season.

And yes, the very first one will address Cherry’s firing from Sportsnet.

“But that’s not all we talked about,” Cherry told me Monday. “We are talking hockey, of course. It’s going to be terrific. In this one I am talking about The Rocket (Maurice Richard), one of the all-time greats.”

One thing for sure about the new show is MacLean will not be in his foxhole.

So who will be?

You may have noticed the word “we” in Don’s comments and since so many scrutinize every word he says and what he means by it, I asked.

Turns out Grapes has a new co-host. And perhaps hosts.

“My son, Tim, is going to do it with me and my grandson Del,” said Grapes. 

At least he knows they won’t turn on him when the waters get rough as MacLean did.

“They did great,” Don said of Tim and Del. ”I think people are really going to enjoy this one and the ones we do down the road.”

Tim Cherry tells me the plan is to tape and post it every Monday.

“That way we cover off what happened on the weekend in hockey,” said Tim. “It’s going to be fun.”

For Don’s fans, who are already missing him and unlikely to tune into whatever Sportsnet comes up with to replace the 38-year-old segment, this will give them the opportunity to hear what he has to say. For Don himself, it will connect him with the hockey fans and players he loves while getting back on horse quickly.

It will be in audio broadcast to start with but Tim says it could grow into a TV-style show with cameras and sponsors.

If The Grapevine title sounds familiar it’s because Don’s television show, which Tim produced, was on the air from 1982-93 — filmed in Hamilton.

The new project will feature Don talking about the NHL and hockey and whatever he wants without any censorship.

If he wants to talk about poppies, he can do it without being fired. If he wants to talk about the troops or cops or firefighters or honour the fallen, no one can tell him to keep his nose out of it.

Mostly the plan is to talk hockey. And he won’t have just seven minutes to get it all out.

“The first podcast is about half an hour,” said Tim.

But if they ever find themselves in a position to need more time, or less, the beauty of podcasts is there are no constricting rules.

It also keeps Grapes in game shape while he considers other potential TV offers and opportunities.

Mostly it’s just the perfect outlet for Don Cherry to do what he does best: Be Don Cherry.

Yes Coach’s Corner is over: The new Grapevine has just been planted. Just call this the coach’s comeback! 

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Injuries sideline Habs Drouin, Byron indefinitely

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Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Drouin underwent wrist surgery on Monday, and Byron is scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday.

“We’ll a better idea of a timeline after the surgery,” coach Claude Julien said after the Canadiens practised in preparation for Tuesday’s road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

The Canadiens recalled Charles Hudon from Laval. He played Saturday against New Jersey and was sent back to the minors after the game.

Julien said Carey Price will start in goal, and he will wait to decide on a goaltender for Wednesday’s home game against the Ottawa Senators.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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