NEW YORK — Four hours after she closed her eyes and fell to the court as the U.S. Open Champion, Bianca Andreescu, was still being escorted from interview to interview, embracing her trophy, refusing to let go.
"Is it heavy?" I asked.
"Here," she said with a smirk, as she tried handing me the hardware. "Come on, now’s your chance to see," she egged me on.
Our TV lights flickered on the trophy and names like Tracy Austin and Martina Navratilova revealed themselves, etched in silver.
"Your name is going to be on there," I said.
"Did you see, they already put my name up on the wall?," Andreescu enthusiastically responded, her eyes widening.
For as composed as she is at just 19-years-old, the teenager in her still sneaks through.
"You’re not going to sleep tonight, are you?" I teased.
"Well, it is the city that never sleeps," she said with a smile.
While Andreescu continued her newfound Grand Slam champion duties, her parents, Maria and Nicu, walked their dog Coco through the empty grounds, energy abound.
"Coco slept the whole match," Maria said.
"Always does," Nicu added.
As Saturday became Sunday, Andreescu, along with her team, family and friends, finished a celebratory dinner with the trophy sitting on the table. They gathered in a circle and toasted as Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” played in the background. They all sang along.
Maria and Nicu ended up going back to their hotel room and turned on the TV. They flipped channels and found their daughter in a replay of the Championship match. They watched again, this time, knowing the outcome.
In true New York City fashion, Andreescu and her longtime friends Safiya and Laura stayed out and stopped at a 24-hour pizza spot, eventually going to bed not long before sunrise.
Just a few hours later, Andreescu awoke with a smile on her face. A hair and makeup team arrived to get her ready for the traditional Championship photo op.
As the dozens of cameras set up on the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center, 40 stories above Manhattan, so did a group of tourists, snapping photos of the New York City skyline.
"Who is coming?" one woman asked, watching as the media set up.
"I think it’s Bianca Andreescu," a man said.
"Who’s that?" the woman responded.
"She just won the U.S. Open," I said.
"She’s coming here, now?" another woman exclaimed. She was visiting from Sydney, Australia. "I went to see the tennis match, but now I’ll see her up close! Just my luck," she said with a smile as she fumbled to get her phone ready to capture a photo.
"Do you think her parents will be here?"
Moments later, Andreescu stepped out of the elevator and onto the deck. The crowd of tourists applauded and divided as she walked through them, proudly holding the trophy, the new extension of herself.
Right behind her were her parents, and of course, Coco. As all the cameras were on their daughter, they escaped to the back. Nicu held his phone horizontally, craning his neck, trying to find a sliver of room between reporters to get his own shot.
While all eyes faced south towards the champion, Maria, with Coco in her arms, stood alone, facing north.
"Isn’t it beautiful," she said, as she looks out to Central Park. This was her first time at the top. "It’s like a movie," she said, referring to the view, or maybe something more.
"I always say, ‘Dream big to get big’," Andreescu said moments later to the flock of reporters. “I’ve been like that ever since I was a little kid, thanks to my Mom, she’s my role model, so I thank her for that."
If they can find the time, they’ll try to go shopping on 5th Avenue. She did just become $3.85 million richer.
Started from the bottom, and now she’s here, at the top of the tennis world, overlooking New York.