Leylah Fernandez is bidding to become the second Canadian to lift the US Open trophy
Leylah Fernandez caused yet another upset on Friday by vanquishing second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in the US Open semifinals. Sabalenka is now among Fernandez’s high-profile victims in New York this year, which include Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina.
After having trailed for much of the first set, Fernandez maintained her composure in the tiebreak to emerge on the winning side. Sabalenka restored the balance by taking the second set, but a flurry of unforced errors from her racket provided Fernandez with the edge in the deicder. The Canadian broke in the final game of the third set to book a place in her maiden Slam final.
During her post-match press conference, Leylah Fernandez talked about her self-belief and claimed that there is no limit to what she can do. She also said she is pleased that everything has been falling in place for her thus far.
“Impossible is nothing,” Fernandez said. “Like my dad would tell me all the time there’s no limit to my potential, to what I can do. Every day we just got to keep working hard, we got to keep going for it. Nothing’s impossible. There’s no limit to what I can do. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going well.”
The Canadian further talked about how her run this fortnight has helped her fully understand her potential. Fernandez now believes in her ability to beat the top players, and is “extremely proud” of the way she has been fighting for every point.
“It [her performance thus far] has also helped me open my eyes that I have no limit to my potential, that I can go three sets against these players, I can play against these top players, and I can win against these top players,” the 19-year-old said.”I’m just glad to have this experience and see where my tennis game is at, my tennis level is at,” she continued. “I’m extremely proud of the way I fought for every point. My mental toughness, that’s been a huge plus for me. I’m just extremely happy with what I’ve achieved this week. Off court I’m just enjoying every minute of it.”Leylah Fernandez and Aryna Sabalenka at the ent after their semi-final match
Leylah Fernandez went on to describe her emotions upon clinching a hard-fought victory over Aryna Sabalenka. The teenager expressed relief that her hard work had paid off after two hours of play and that she could secure her place in the US Open final.
“Nothing. Just blank,” Fernandez said when asked about her immediate emotions upon converting match point. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. A swarm of emotions just came in. I think I was relieved that the ball was out, glad that I fought so hard for two-plus hours, and that all the hard work is paying off and I’m in the finals.”
“A lot of people doubted me, my family and my dreams” – Leylah Fernandez
Leylah Fernandez’s mother (extreme left) has had a constant presence in her box
Leylah Fernandez proceeded to reflect on the journey she and her family have traveled to reach this juncture in her tennis career. The 19-year-old recalled how several people doubted her potential to become a professional player early on, and often advised her to give up on her dreams.
Fernandez particularly referred to one school teacher who told her to give up tennis and focus on school. Those words by the teacher have now become a source of motivation for the Canadian; she keeps trying to prove to her teacher and to herself that she has it in her to reach the top.
“A lot of people doubted me, my family and my dreams,” Fernandez revealed. “They kept saying no, that I’m not going to be a professional tennis player. I remember one teacher, she told me to stop playing tennis, you will never make it, and just focus on school.””You know what, I’m just glad that she told me that because every day I have that phrase in my head saying that I’m going to keep going, I’m going to push through, and I’m going to prove to her everything that I’ve dreamed of I’m going to achieve them,” she added.”
Leylah Fernandez also talked about her mother’s sacrifices in helping her reach where she is today. Fernandez’s mother had to leave her home in Laval, Canada and go to California in order to support her tennis career.
“My mom had to go to California for a few years to support my family and I in the tennis world,” Fernandez continued. “Those few years have definitely been hard for me because I needed a mom, I needed someone to be there for me through the age of 10 to 13. I’ve barely seen her at that time.””I was just very lucky to have my mom here at this tournament cheering for me and having fun with me all this time,” she added. “But we’ve gone through so many things together as a family. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going on our side.”
Leylah Fernandez will battle against fellow teenager and qualifier Emma Raducanu for the coveted US Open trophy on Saturday.