Leylah Fernandez Defeats Aryna Sabalenka to Reach US Open Final

Leylah Fernandez’s teenage dream run continues at the US Open

The 19-year-old half-Ecuadorian Canadian tennis player made it through a semifinal filled with momentum swings to edge No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4.

Leylah Fernandez

At the outset Thursday, Sabalenka looked in control, claiming 12 of the first 14 points for a 3-0 lead. Just eight minutes had elapsed, and most spectators were yet to reach their seats. Not until later did the 20,000-plus in the stands rally the fist-aloft Fernandez with chants of “Let’s go, Leylah! Let’s go!” accompanied by rhythmic clapping.

“I’m glad that whatever I’m doing on court, the fans are loving it — and I’m loving it, too,” Fernandez said. “We’ll say it’s magical.”

At the end of the first set and again the third, it was Sabalenka who let things get away from her. In the last game, she double-faulted twice in a row to set up match point, then sailed a forehand long.

“This,” Sabalenka said, “is what we call pressure.”

No matter what, seemingly, Fernandez did not feel it. Didn’t waver.

This was the left-handed Fernandez’s fourth consecutive three-set victory over a seeded opponent. First came No. 3 Naomi Osaka, the 2018 and 2020 US Open champion. Then came No. 16 Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champ. That was followed by No. 5 Elina Svitolina and Sabalenka.

“There’s no limit to what I can do. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going well,” said Fernandez, who could give Canada its second US Open women’s title in three years, following Bianca Andreescu‘s triumph in 2019.

She’ll next face Emma Raducanu in the final.

Fernandez was born in Montreal to a Filipino Canadian mother and Ecuadorian father; the family moved to Florida after Leylah had success as a junior at age 12. Her dad is also her coach, although he is not with her in New York, instead offering coaching tips in daily phone conversations.

Perhaps he told his daughter to let Sabalenka make all the mistakes in a tiebreaker, because that’s what happened at the conclusion of the first set. Sabalenka went up 2-0 and then lost her way. Every point won by Fernandez came courtesy of a miss by Sabalenka.

“I wouldn’t say that she did something,” Sabalenka said. “I would say that I [destroyed] myself.”

In the second set, Sabalenka regained her form and Fernandez took a step back. But by the third, it was Fernandez’s time to shine.

“Now she’s like [a] top-10 player,” Sabalenka said. “We’ll see how good she will be in the future.”

Leylah Fernandez Advances to First Grand Slam Semifinal While Continuing Cinderella Run at US Open

It’s a birthday Leylah Fernandez will never forget…

The half-Ecuadorian Canadian tennis player, who just turned 19 on Monday, defeated No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) at the US Open to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

Leylah Fernandez

In the process, the unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova.

Fernandez had previously recorded wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her early career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the 2020 Tokyo Games bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists. Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test against a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 victory over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8.

Carla Suarez Navarro Advances to Connecticut Open Final…

Carla Suarez Navarro is one win away from her next title…

The 29-year-old Spanish tennis player will compete for the Connecticut Open championship, despite completing just one full match this week and playing less than four sets.

Carla Suarez Navarro 

Navarro advanced Friday when Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig retired during their first set of their semifinal with an abdominal injury.

Suarez Navarro will face Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, who upset fifth-seeded Julia Goerges 6-4, 7-6 (3) in the first semifinal.

“I feel like I didn’t play and I’m in the final,” Suarez Navarro said. “But, well, I cannot do nothing.”

Suarez Navarro won her first match against Barbora Strycova in straight sets. Her second-round opponent, Johanna Konta, withdrew with an illness. She was leading 6-3 in the quarterfinals Thursday when third-seeded Petra Kvitova bowed out with a shoulder injury.

Puig was leading 4-3 after exchanging service breaks with Suarez Navarro when she left the court holding her abdomen. Puig, the reigning Olympic champion, returned five minutes later, lost the next game, then approached the net in tears and announced she could not continue.

“It was a bit of an abdominal strain that I started feeling in my second service game,” Puig said. “I just gradually got worse from there. Obviously, with the US Open so close, it’s better not to make it worse, miss a tournament. I mean, I already know the consequences of getting injured and missing a Grand Slam. That’s not ideal.”

Puig  said she is hopeful of playing in New York against Stefanie Vogele of Switzerland on Tuesday.

Suarez Navarro will be seeking her third career WTA title.