As we count down to 2020, TSN.ca looks back over some of the most interesting stories of 2019. They won't necessarily be the best of the year, per se, but memorable games, moments and events that are worthy of reflection.
On Monday, it's 2019 in golf and tennis.
Bianca takes over
One hundred and forty-seven.
That’s the number of spots Bianca Andreescu moved up moved up in the WTA rankings during her breakout 2019 season.
Her seismic leap in the rankings, however, fails to describe the roller-coaster year for the 19-year-old, which included battling injuries and establishing herself among tennis’ elite.
Andreescu set the tone for her 2019 season in the first event of the year at the ASB Classic in New Zealand. Entering the main draw through a 3-0 record in qualification, Andreescu defeated Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams on her road to the tournament final, where she was defeated in three sets by second-seeded Julia Goerges. When the week was over, Andreescu had a 7-1 record and jumped 46 spots in the rankings.
At her first major of the season, Andreescu again went 3-0 in qualifying to enter the main draw at the Australian Open, but was defeated in the Round of 64 in three sets by Anastasija Sevastova.
She ended the month of January by going a perfect 5-0 to capture her first WTA 125K title in Newport Beach.
When February began, she was ranked 70th in WTA and considered a quickly rising star. It wasn’t until March, however, that Andreescu truly announced her presence.
Playing at the iconic BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., Andreescu dropped just three sets in seven matches and claimed her first WTA title with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory over eighth-ranked Angelique Kerber. That victory marked her fourth straight at the tournament over a top-20 opponent.
Despite being just 18 at the time, Andreescu was reluctant to look forward to the year’s upcoming majors.
"I just want to enjoy this moment, because I don't want to take anything for granted," said Andreescu. "You never know what next week brings. I just want to savour this."
As if she has already read the tea leaves, Andreescu’s rise hit a speed bump just six days later, when she was forced to retire at the Miami Open in the Round of 16 due to a right shoulder injury. The withdrawal came in her first match after defeating Kerber for the second time in a week to stretch her winning streak to 10.
After two months off the court, Andreescu tested her shoulder at the second Grand Slam of the year in Paris, but was forced to withdraw from the French Open following her first-round victory.
Andreescu was then forced to miss Wimbledon and entered the Rogers Cup on home soil in August with questions surrounding her health and effectiveness. When she opened her Round of 64 match by dropping the first set 6-4 to former top-ranked Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, it appeared those questions were justified. Andreescu, though, stormed back against Bouchard taking the second set 6-1 and eventually the third, 6-4.
What followed was a draining march to the to the tournament final that included all but one match – her semifinal win over Sofia Kenin – requiring a third set. She opened the final with a 3-1 lead over Serena Williams when the 23-time Grand Slam champion was forced to retire with a back injury. With that, Andreescu was a champion again, five months and just 12 matches after capturing her title at Indian Wells.
When she entered the U.S. Open ranked 15th in the world, Andreescu was on everyone’s radar. She made quick work of reaching the Round of 16, picking up straight-set victories in each of the first three rounds. She was pushed to three sets by Taylor Townsend in the fourth round and by Elise Mertens in the quarters. It was then a two-set victory in the semifinals over Belinda Bencic set up a rematch against Williams with a Grand Slam title on the line.
Appearing fully recovered from her back injury, Williams had dropped just one set on her run to the final and was staring down her seventh U.S. Open title.
On the biggest stage of her career, Andreescu proved her title in Toronto was no fluke, taking the first set 6-3 over Williams in convincing fashion. Before long, she held a 5-1 lead in the second set and it appeared that all of Canada could taste the country’s first-ever singles Grand Slam title.
Williams, though, isn’t one to roll over. Serena stormed back to erase the deficit and tie the second set at 5-5. Andreescu kept her nerve and held serve, leaving Serena to have to force a tiebreak. On her third championship point of the match with a 30-40 lead, Andreescu returned Williams serve by her, securing a place in history.
With that, a Grand Slam, two WTA titles, an additional WTA 125K title and a top-six ranking all belonged the teenage sensation
"This year has been a dream come true and being able to play on this stage against Serena, a true legend in this sport, is amazing," Andreescu said after her U.S. Open victory.
Her U.S. Open run earned Andreescu a top-10 ranking and a trip to the WTA Finals in China in October with a chance to improve her ranking one last time. However, she was hampered by a left knee injury throughout her first two losses before being forced to withdraw.
In December, Andreescu became the first-ever tennis player to win the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete of the year. Proving just how transcendent her success was.
As the calendar flips to 2020, Andreescu’s health is once again in question. But she’s already proved that she should never be counted out. - Mike Hetherington
How far she's come
It's the Summer of 2017. A sunny, scorching Tuesday at the Rogers Cup at York University.
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Andreescu is training on a practice court in front of a handful of fans, a local television crew, and a group of her high school friends.
She is one of Canada's top up-and-coming players but she's on court in relative anonymity. Fellow Canuck Genie Bouchard is headlining play over in the stadium. There is a buzz from onlookers as Czech star Petra Kvitova arrives to use the practice court after Bianca is done.
Andreescu is hitting the ball hard with her coach. Backhands down the line. Overhead smashes. She begins to wrap up her session and her friends call her over. She hugs them, all of them excited that she received a wild-card entry into the WTA event.
"Hey, can you toss me your towel?" asks one friend.
"Got an extra racquet?" asks another.
"You guys can have whatever you want."
She does an interview with the TV reporter, then leaves the court with her pals. She steps over the rope barrier from the players' side into the fan area, where nobody asks for an autograph or a selfie. Bianca is a newcomer living the dream with her friends, getting a taste of the highest level of women's tennis.
It's a sports cliche that there is no such thing as an overnight sensation. But Bianca's rapid rise is about as close as you can get.
There was no way to know in that innocent moment that just 24 months later, amazingly still a teenager, Andreescu would lift the trophy at the very same event as part of a breakthrough 2019 season.
Now a grand slam winner and ranked fifth in the world, she has appeared on talk shows and been feted in her hometown of Mississauga, Ont., and in festivities across the country. She was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's 2019 Athlete of the Year, the first-ever tennis player so honoured. She is also suddenly a multi-millionaire, having earned $6.5 million in the past 12 months alone. She had made just over $200,000 before that.
And all of those achievements happened in a blur - she doesn't even turn 20 until next June.
Yes, it's Bianca's world now. She has newly-found fame, fortune, and a new life as one of the marquee names in tennis.
But on that summer day just two short years ago, she was a teenager among friends with all that success a mere fantasy in her mind.
How quickly times have changed. - Barry Riz
Henderson makes history
At the age of 17, Brooke Henderson won her first ever LPGA Tour event by an absurd eight strokes. The year after, the Smiths Falls, Ont., native outduelled Lydia Ko and Ariya Jutanugarn to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for her first career major. Two summers later, Henderson became the first Canadian since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973 to win the Canadian Women’s Open by a dominant four strokes.
She’s been ascending at a rapid rate her whole career. That continued in a big way this year.
Already with one victory at the Meijer LPGA Classic in 2017, Henderson won for the second time at Blythefield Country Club in Michigan this summer to give her victory No. 9 in her career. And with it, history. Henderson’s ninth tournament win gave her sole possession of the all-time lead by a Canadian on the PGA or LPGA Tour, breaking the previous mark of eight held by Sandra Post, Mike Weir and George Knudson. On Father’s Day no less, with her dad, Dave, waiting for her at the 18th green.
It didn’t come easy. While Henderson tied the tournament record – which she previously set in her 2017 win – with a final score of -21 under and held off Lexi Thompson, Nasa Hataoka, Su Oh and Brittany Altomare by one shot, she admitted the crowded leaderboard made her sweat a little bit.
“When I was walking up  I thought maybe I would have to birdie or eagle this hole to get the job done. But when I looked at the scoreboard I was sort of shocked that all I needed to do was three-putt and par. So I’m really grateful about that because I don’t know why – I was shaking pretty bad on those last couple putts,” she said.
“She’s such a talent. A ninth win at such a young age is just awesome,” said Weir, who is no stranger to big moments himself having won a Green Jacket in 2003.
Henderson would not win on Tour again in 2019 but posted six more top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at the Canadian Open.
“That’s really cool,” Henderson said of her milestone. “Earlier this year to get my eighth win and to tie that record was a huge deal for me. To now kind of break through, that is awesome. I’m just really excited for the rest of the summer and hopefully many more wins in the future.”
Did we mention she’s only 21 years old? So yes, there’s almost certainly more to come in the future. - Allan Perkins
The year in Tiger
There were the injuries. The sex scandal and subsequent divorce. The sponsors jumping ship. The DUI arrest. The effects of aging.
Tiger Woods’ downfall was enormous. From 2008 onward, Woods began a steady decline that left many wondering if he would ever win a major championship again. Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record of 18 began to seem out of reach despite once looking like it was a matter of when, not if, Woods would eclipse the mark. But after having spinal fusion surgery in April of 2017, it looked like it was a matter of if, not when, Woods would make it back to professional golf, let alone win another major.
Well, he showed us.
In the year of the impossible – the Raptors winning the NBA championship, the Blues going from worst to first to win the Stanley Cup, the US Open title coming to Canada and the nearly-forgotten Nationals winning the World Series after losing their best player – Woods’ win at The Masters might top them all. - Allan Perkins
Tiger roars again
To understand what Woods accomplished, consider where he came from.
“Pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy,” A near 40-year-old Woods told reporters with a tone of finality in December of 2015 following another injury setback. “For my 20 years out here I think I’ve achieved a lot, and if that’s all it entails, then I’ve had a pretty good run. But I’m hoping that’s not it.”
The mere fact he entered The Masters nearly three and a half years later with a realistic shot at winning was incredible. A consensus among sportsbooks had Tiger’s odds for the weekend at 14-1, fourth behind Rory McIlroy (7-1), Dustin Johnson (9-1) and Justin Rose (12-1).
Woods opened with a 70 and followed that up with a 4-under 68 heading into Saturday to sit one shot back of the lead at -7. The trouble was everyone else had the same idea. While Woods’ -6 was solid, 10 other players were within one shot. If he had any chance at winning, he would have to be nearly flawless all weekend.
Woods hung tough Saturday but Moving Day belonged to Francesco Molinari. The Italian reeled off four straight birdies at one point on the back nine for a 6-under 66 to take a two-shot lead over Tiger and Tony Finau entering the final day. Still for the first time in nearly 10 years, Woods was in the final pairing in a major on Sunday, setting up one of the more compelling final rounds in Masters’ history.
Even Mother Nature got in on the action. Augusta National announced Saturday that the final-round tee times would be moved up with the first group going off just after 7 a.m. ET and Woods’ group set to go off about two hours later.
Like the previous three days, Woods was sharp early on but couldn’t separate himself from the field. Six different players had the lead on the back-nine. When Woods’ group got to the 15th, there was a five-way tie for the lead. Then, Tiger took over.
On the Par 3 16th, Woods pulled off one of the most legendary shots of his career, riding the slope at 16 green – which he’s done before – to within two feet of the hole. “C’mon,” Woods told it over and over as it rolled toward the cup, giving him the easy birdie. Vintage stuff.
Like the days of old, others around him withered while Tiger stood tall. On the verge of Major No. 15, Woods strolled to the 18th green with two putts to win. From about 15 feet out, Woods burned the right edge to set up a two-footer for his first Green Jacket in 14 years. Calmly, Woods tapped-in and celebrated with possibly his most joyous fist-pump yet.
“It’s overwhelming, just because of what has transpired,” Woods said after the win. “Last year I was lucky to be playing again. At the previous year’s dinner, I was really struggling. I missed a couple of years not playing this great tournament. To now be the champion… 22 years between wins is a long time. It’s unreal to experience this.”
“This is definitely, probably one of the greatest comebacks I think anybody’s ever seen,” runner-up Brooks Koepka said. “I think 18 is a whole lot closer than people think.”
“This is just fantastic,” tweeted Mr. 18 himself following the win.
After it looked for a while like he would never make it back again, Tiger was on top of the world. But his 2019 wasn’t done. - Allan Perkins
Snead gets some company
The ZOZO Championship is not The Masters. Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club is no Augusta National. There’s no debate Tiger’s Green Jacket was the most impressive thing he did in 2019 – and probably his career. Still, it’s impossible to ignore No. 82.
Tiger’s late-October victory in Japan tied him with Sam Snead for first on the PGA Tour’s all-time wins list.
Like a few months earlier, Woods had to fight a dense leaderboard and extreme weather as he held off Hideki Matsuyama with a final-round 67. Being Japan’s first ever Tour event, it would have been special to see Matsuyama take home the title on home soil. Instead fans were given something even more historic.
Woods improved to 44-for-46 when leading after 54 holes and played the Par 3s at a field-best -9. Like a few months earlier, he looked like the Tiger of old.
“It’s a big number,” Woods said after the win. “It’s a lot of consistency and doing it for a long period of time, Sam did it into his 50s and I’m in my early to mid-40s so it’s about being consistent and doing it for a very long period of time. I’ve been very fortunate to have the career I’ve had so far.”
Snead was 52 when he won No. 82 while Tiger tied the mark at 43. Like Nicklaus’ 18 majors, Tiger reaching 82 victories was all but a lock. But then the injuries came and everything else followed.
“There was a point when I didn’t know if I’d be playing again. I was just hoping to walk normally again.”
With concrete successes in 2019 to build off, it begs the question – how much does Tiger have left? How far away is win No. 83 to give him sole possession of first? Or his next major?
“I felt good with every aspect of my game,” Woods said earlier this month. “I worked hard on everything, felt pretty sharp.”
It that continues, who knows what’s left in the tank. - Allan Perkins