Leylah Fernández shocks the world at the U.S. Open
At just 19 years old, the young Canadian of Ecuadorian origin has defeated a number of great tennis stars present at the major tennis championship.
After winning in the quarterfinals against Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in a game of more than two hours by a score of 6-3, 3-6 and 7-6 (5), Leylah Fernández will face the world's number two women's tennis player in Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka, for a place in the finals, on Thursday, Sept. 9.
To reach the semifinals, she not only had to beat Svitolina but also two favorites to win the tournament, Naomi Osaka in the third round and Germany's Angelique Kerber in the second round.
Although she was born in Canada, Latin blood runs through her veins, as her father is Ecuadorian and her mother is a Canadian of Filipino origin. That is why Jorge, her father, does not hesitate to affirm that her blood is not red, but tricolor, in reference to the Ecuadorian flag.
Fernández's story is quite unique. She has practiced tennis since she was six years old, but was expelled from Canada's tennis program a few years ago. Her father, a former professional soccer player in Ecuador, took charge of her training.
Although he did not have much experience in tennis, he did know something fundamental: the importance of mental strength in high performance sports, something that Leylah has shown in this US Open.
"Having him as my coach, teaching me the simple fact of being competitive in sports, has definitely impacted my game and my mentality," acknowledged the young tennis player.
The influence of her father was so great that before dedicating herself to tennis, she practiced soccer.
“I wanted to play soccer because my dad was a coach and a player. I was always on the field with him, but he didn't want his daughter to be in such a difficult sport for women. I spent a few months on a soccer team and one day my dad came home from work and said, 'I'm sorry, but no more.' He went to a sports store and instead, he bought us tennis rackets that were pink with flowers,” Fernández told Excelsior of Mexico.
Although she is far from being the youngest tennis player to win a grand slam — the record is held by Martina Hingis who won the first tournament at age 16, when she won the Australian Open in 1997 — what Fernández has achieved is meteoric. In 2019, she won the Roland Garrós junior tournament, and although this year she did not pass the first round in Australia and Wimbledon, she did reach the WTA title at the Monterrey Open.