Leylah Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, has reached the semi-finals of US Open 2021 by upsetting world number 5 Elina Svitolina. The Canadian produced another fearless performance to beat Svitolina and set up a semi-final clash with Aryna Sabalenka. Fernandez showed all her power to win a tense tie-break 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) in New York. She won the last two points of the tie-break to register another three-set win after overcoming past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber in the previous two marches.
Fernandez, whose father was born in Ecuador and whose mother is Filipino- Canadian, became the youngest woman to reach the US Open women’s singles semifinals since Maria Sharapova in 2005. She has demonstrated ferocious ball striking, immense athleticism and tremendous competitiveness so far.
It was another sensational match in New York and Fernandez said “I honestly have no idea what I’m feeling right now. Throughout the whole match I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do. Thanks to the New York crowd, cheering me on, fighting for me and never giving up, I was able to push through today.”
“Svitolina, she’s a great player, she fought for everything, she runs for everything. I’m honoured to have a fight with her. I just told myself to trust my shots, trust that everything’s going to go well. Even if I lose, I’ve got to go for it, and I’m glad I did,” she added,
Olympic bronze medalist, Svitolina, had overturned a 5-2 deficit in the third set but could not stop Fernandez’s powerful play. The Canadian has demonstrated controlled aggression in New York, backing up her power play with a calmness on court.
Fernandez is two steps away from repeating the feat of fellow Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who herself was 19 when she captured the 2019 US Open women’s singles championship.
The 73rd ranked Fernandez nosed out in front, taking a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak. Svitolina dug deep once more to level at 5-5, but then Fernandez produced the shot of the match, a running forehand winner from the baseline that clipped the top of the net before landing just inside the sideline to set up match point. Fernandez served out the match when Svitolina’s return went long, with the Canadian falling to her knees and tearing up as she was given a lengthy ovation by the fans at Arthur Ashe.
The teenagers have made a breakthrough in this year’s US Open with 18-year-old Emma Raducanu and Carlos Alvaraz reaching the quarter-finals. Fernandez has gone one step further. She has stuck to her strengths, finishing with 42 winners against Svitolina.
She credited her dad, who is an ex-professional footballer for giving her tactical support.
“My dad told me so many things but today he told me to have fun, he said fight for every point and to not make the quarter-finals my last match and fight for my dream.”
Second seed Sabalenka dominated French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova 6-1, 6-4.