Leylah Annie Fernandez just turned 19 years old on Monday, but her maturity and poise on the tennis courts have made her a breakout star in the Big Apple.
While she may not have been on most people’s radars when the tournament started last week, Fernandez’s display of grit, determination and talent has taken her all the way to the semis of the US Open. In the process, she has recorded notable wins over defending US Open champion Naomi Osaka, three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber, and world No. 5 Elina Svitolina.
Kerber believes the lack of expectations for Fernandez leading up to the US Open has allowed her to relax and simply play to her ability.
“I think she played one of the best matches of her career and she had nothing to lose and she went out there and she played her tennis,” noted Kerber about the young Canadian after their fourth round match up.
“She has a lot of power in her forehand and she’s going for her winners and she’s enjoying her tennis out there.”
It’s amazing how dynamite the young tennis stars r that they r producing in Canada .Today 18 yr old phenom Leylah Fernandez added highly Elina Svitolina to her list of stars she has beaten (OSAKA , KERBER & SVITOLINA ) Now Leylah is in the USOpen semi-finals .Love her spirit !
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) September 7, 2021
Ranked 73rd in the world heading into the US Open, Fernandez pulled off a massive upset when she defeated the defending champion 5-7 7-6 6-4 in the third round. The 5’4″ lefty would beat Kerber 4-6 7-6 6-2 in the fourth round, and then followed that up defeating Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 in the quarters.
Known for her grit and her above average speed around the court, Fernandez scored a significant accomplishment earlier this season when she captured the Abierto GNP Seguros in March. The Canadian teenager defeated Viktorija Golubic 6-1 6-4 in the championship match to win her maiden WTA title.
Since her triumph at the Sierra Madre Tennis Club in Monterrey, Fernandez has experienced quite a bit of inconsistency in her game. She would lose in the first round of qualifying at the Miami Open, the Madrid Open, and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia. In addition, Fernandez lost in the first round of the National Bank Open and the
Western & Southern Open. So heading into the bright lights of New York for the US Open it was understandable why she may have been under the radar.
But the young Canadian has certainly stepped up her game at the right time. After an epic three set victory in the quarters over Svitolina, Fernandez spoke about her mindset during the match.
“I told myself to trust my shots and trust that everything is going to go well. Even if I lose I got to go for it and I’m glad I did,” she said.
Fernandez’s mental toughness and grit that has led to her amazing run at the US Open and has caught the attention of some of the biggest names in the sporting world.
— Steve Nash (@SteveNash) September 7, 2021
The 19-year-old has been receiving shout outs on social media from Sloane Stephens, Magic Johnson, and Steve Nash – just to name a few.
Given her breakout success in New York and the massive attention that comes along with it, Fernandez says she’s grateful to have her family by her side to keep her grounded.
“I’m just very lucky to have my family over here who are so serious and so excited for me. And they tell me after every match to enjoy it and tomorrow is going to be a new day; so start from zero and work hard now,” she said during an on court interview after her big victory over Svitolina.
Fernandez’s display of on court brilliance at such a young age has many pondering just how good she could be in the years to come. And Kerber, a former world No. 1, weighed in on the topic during her post match presser after her fourth round match.
“If she plays like this and consistently plays like this the whole year then I think she has a great future. I think she can really go far in the next few years,” said the three-time Grand Slam champion.
Looking ahead, Fernandez will look to continue her streak of upsets against world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka.
The 19-year-old breakout star is now only two wins away from becoming a bona fide superstar in New York. And recording those two victories is a birthday wish that doesn’t seem far-fetched based on the way Fernandez is playing right now.
Main Photo from Getty.