Leylah Fernandez will play in the US Open final after a pulsating victory in the semifinals. Remarkably, she is, of course, the second Canadian teenager to play the US Open final after Bianca Andreescu won in 2019. The 2021 US Open delivers once more though as Fernandez’s victory also continues the magnificent trend of teenage victories here. The World #73 before the tournament, Leylah Fernandez could yet reach the Top 20 and become Canada’s #1 player.
Canadian Leylah Fernandez Reaches US Open
Sabalenka starts with intent
The start by Sabalenka in this match may have caused most to think that this would be a walkover. The World #2 came out flying and blasted groundstrokes at a tremendous pace off both wings. This helped her to an early 4-1 lead with many predicting a similar outcome as in all of Sabalenka’s matches so far, a routine victory.
However, there was a momentum change as Fernandez held serve and then was able to watch as the composure seemed to drain away from Sabalenka. The constant stream of winners turned into a dribble of unforced errors. The match was being played on Sabalenka’s racquet but Fernandez was sticking around to draw those errors.
A set of two halves
The early break was recovered by the Canadian and then both women were able to hold serve to the end of the set. However, there was no lack of drama as it became a guessing game as to whether Sabalenka would produce a winner or an error on each shot. There was enough about the Belarusian’s game though to give herself a set point as Fernandez served at 6-5. However, a simple rallying groundstroke went halfway up the net at 30-40, and then Fernandez hit a couple of great winners to force the tiebreak.
The tiebreak was something of a disappointment but mirrored the set as a whole. Sabalenka took the early break but a series of Belarusian errors allowed Fernandez to take that mini-break back and then the Canadian took control. One remarkable point saw Sabalenka approach the net, play the volley adequately but Fernandez threw up a tricky lob that Sabalenka couldn’t move her legs to get into position for. The resulting shank fell wide of the tramlines and the first set belonged to the teenager.
Standards dip in the second set
Fernandez’s level dropped slightly in the second set. In fact, the standard of the match dropped. Neither player was able to string a number of games together and neither hit more winners than unforced errors in the second set.
It was the second serve of Fernandez that was the target at this time. The young Canadian was unable to hold off the onslaught against it, winning only 1 point behind her second serve in the whole set. After trading early breaks Fernandez folded to the pressure when serving at 4-4 and Sabalenka was able to serve out to love with some huge serving.
A third set full of tension
Both women were able to hold serve with relative ease at the beginning of the third set. Fernandez’s service games certainly moved up a level as she began to feel more confident behind her delivery. The two-hour mark passed with the crowd very much wondering who could make a decisive move, most hoping it would be the Canadian.
The majority of the crowd got their wish as Fernandez was able to break for a 4-2 lead but Sabalenka came roaring back, taking her fourth break point of the seventh game with a crunching crosscourt forehand.
For all Sabalenka’s power, Fernandez would not go away. The Canadian is truly a nightmare to play against as she seems to just make so many shots to stay in the rally, as well as having enough power of her own to produce outright winners.
Fernandez though didn’t have to produce those fabulous winners in the final game of the match. The pressure of serving to stay in the tournament was far too much for Aryna Sabalenka. Two double faults and two unforced errors gifted the final to Leylah Fernandez. The scenes in the Arthur Ashe Stadium were wild as Fernandez hit the floor with joyous emotion.
The Canadian has been totally unstoppable so far despite a ridiculously difficult draw. Only Maria Sakkari or fellow teen sensation Emma Raducanu can possibly prevent the 19-year-old from being crowned US Open Champion now. What a final we have in prospect on Saturday at the Billie Jean King Center in New York.
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