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.

Carlos Alcaraz Becomes Youngest Male Player to Reach U.S. Open Quarterfinals in Nearly 60 Years

Carlos Alcaraz has earned a place in US Open history…

The 18-year-old Spanish player beat 141st-ranked qualifier Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 to reach the final eight at Flushing Meadows.

Carlos Alcaraz

In the process, Alcaraz has become the youngest man to reach the quarterfinals of the US Open since 1963.

Alcaraz will now face No. 12 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 21-year-old from Canada who reached his second straight major quarterfinal by defeating Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-4 with the help of 24 aces.

“At some point, age is just a number,” Auger-Aliassime when asked about Alcaraz. “He already feels like a player that is established.”

The 55th-ranked Alcaraz got past No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in his previous match and is the youngest player with two five-set Grand Slam wins in a row since Michael Chang was 16 at the 1988 U.S. Open.

Auger-Aliassime had never reached the final eight at any Grand Slam tournament until Wimbledon in July, a month before he turned 21 on August 8. Now the Canadian is the youngest man to reach consecutive major quarterfinals since Juan Martin del Potro made it to three straight in 2008-09.

Leylah Fernandez Defeats Former US Open Champion Angelique Kerber to Reach First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinal

Leylah Fernandez has taken down another ex-champion at the U.S. Open

The 18-year-old half-Ecuadorian Canadian tennis player, unseeded at this year’s event, won the last five games to eliminate 2016 title winner Angelique Kerber 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 on Sunday at Flushing Meadows, proving that her earlier upset of defending champion Naomi Osaka was no fluke.

Leylah Fernandez

In the process, Fernandez has reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, and she did a day before her 19th birthday.

With grit and guile, plus a veteran’s poise in the face of big deficits against much more accomplished opponents, Fernandez is displaying strokes and a demeanor that left Kerber offering this assessment: “She can go really far in the next few years.”

Ask Fernandez for the secret to her success, and she repeatedly mentions two factors. One is being sure to enjoy her time on court. The other is support of family, because her father, who is from Ecuador, her mother, who is Filipino Canadian, and her sisters “have definitely kept the joy for me.”

She credits Dad — who coaches her and has been offering instructions in daily phone calls while back home, taking care of a younger sibling — and Mom — who is leading the cheers with other family members and Fernandez’s fitness trainer in courtside seats — with teaching a valuable lesson that has nothing to do with tennis.

They made sure to emphasize, Fernandez said, that “you can’t take things too seriously, you’ve got to be mature but at the same time just be a kid, let loose, have fun, eat chocolate when you want to, and just have fun, watch movies, go past your bedtime.”

Just as against Osaka in Arthur Ashe Stadium two nights earlier, Fernandez dropped the opening set against Kerber in Louis Armstrong Stadium, which was so full that would-be spectators were being turned away at the doors.

And just as against Osaka, Fernandez trailed in the second set: Kerber led by a break at 4-2.

Both times, the 73rd-ranked Fernandez managed to get folks in the seats on her side, exulting with every of her on-the-run, impossible-angle groundstrokes that added up to a 45-28 edge in winners.

Fernandez redirects opponent’s shots swiftly and seemingly with ease, sometimes dropping to a knee near the baseline to get the proper leverage. That’s a very similar style to the one another lefty, Kerber, used to reach No. 1 in the rankings and claim three Grand Slam titles.

Kerber, 33, has been playing well enough lately to get to the Wimbledon semifinals in July, but instead of that experience paying off, Fernandez figured the age difference worked in her favor as the contest stretched past two hours.

“I was honestly tired in the third set,” Fernandez acknowledged. “But with that thought, I was telling myself, like, ‘If I’m tired, she must be exhausted.'”

Still, in the last set, Kerber held a break point with a chance to go up 3-1. Fernandez erased that chance with a cross-court forehand winner. Kerber wouldn’t claim another game.

When it ended, Fernandez lifted her arms, then leaned forward to put her hands on her knees and smiled. She stood and patted her chest with her palm, while Kerber walked around the net to offer a clasp of hands and an arm around Fernandez’s shoulders.

“I remember the feeling really well,” Kerber said when asked about playing with the sort of loose-grip freedom Fernandez displays. “I mean it’s (a) few years ago. But of course, I mean, she has no pressure.”

Now Fernandez, who only once had been as far as the third round at a major tournament until now, will meet No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals.

Leylah Fernandez Upsets Defending Champion Naomi Osaka to Reach Fourth Round at US Open

Leylah Fernandez has taken down the defending champion…

The 18-year-old half-Ecuadorian Canadian tennis player, ranked No. 73 in the world, defeated reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka in their third round match on Friday night 5-7, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

Leylah Fernandez

Before this year’s US Open, Fernandez had never been past the second round of a Grand Slam..

“Right before the match, I knew I was able to win,” Fernandez said after her upset win over Osaka.

Osaka had come into Friday with a 16-match winning streak at majors and four career trophies, all on hard courts. But this was Osaka’s first Slam tournament since she pulled out of the French Open before the second round to take a mental health break — she also sat out Wimbledon, before participating in the 2020 Tokyo Games, where she lit the cauldron — and maybe the time off was an issue.

Another possible factor in her failure to close things out while serving for the victory against the left-hander Fernandez at 6-5 in the second set: Osaka hadn’t competed since Monday. That’s because the woman she was supposed to meet in the second round, Olga Danilovic, withdrew due to illness.

Osaka left the court after seven games to change outfits and put on a yellow dress. She was quite good down the stretch in the opening set. She grabbed 12 of the last 13 points, including the last nine, with a break at love to go up 6-5, and a hold at love with the help of a pair of aces at 112 mph and 114 mph to end it.

Osaka seemed on track for a similar conclusion in the second set, leading 6-5 and serving. But when she sailed a forehand wide, Fernandez had her first break of the match to make it 6-all.

“I guess I wanted to stay on court a little bit longer. And I wanted to put on a show for everybody here,” Fernandez said. “One hour was not enough for me to be on court.”

And so began Osaka’s downward spiral. She fell behind 5-0 in the ensuing tiebreaker, missing shots and displaying her frustration, as she occasionally has done in the past, by flinging her racket. Chair umpire Alison Hughes did not sanction Osaka then, although later a warning was issued for hitting a ball into the stands.

“Honestly, I wasn’t focusing on Naomi,” Fernandez said. “I was only focusing on myself and what I needed to do.”

More to the point, Osaka was not at her best. She left the court with a white towel draped over her head after the second set and never really got her game going the rest of the way.

Fernandez certainly had something to do with that, particularly because of her serve. She won 18 of 19 first-serve points — and never faced a break point — in the third set.

Fernandez’s knee-to-the-ground, quick-redirect style at the baseline is reminiscent of another lefty, Angelique Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam champion who won the 2016 US Open. And who just so happens to be the next opponent for Fernandez.

“I’m going to put on a show like I did tonight,” Fernandez said, “and we’re going to see how it goes.”

Carlos Alcaraz Outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas to Reach Fourth Round at US Open

Carlos Alcaraz has notched the biggest win on the ATP Tour

The 18-year-old Spanish tennis player claimed a fifth set tiebreaker to stun third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a thrilling third-round match at the US Open.

Carlos Alcaraz

Alcaraz prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 0-6, 7-6 (7-5) to set up his first Grand Slam fourth-round appearance.

Alcaraz became the youngest man to reach the French Open third round since 1992 in June – and he nce again demonstrated why he’s being tipped for future glory as he shocked the world number three at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Alcaraz twice led Tsitsipas, who reached his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros earlier this year, by a set and showed maturity well beyond his years as he also recovered from failing to take a game in the fourth.

Roared on by a partisan crowd, the talented Spaniard survived a break point at 3-2 down in the deciding set and showed no sign of tension as he held serve to force the final tie-break.

In a dazzling display Alcaraz landed 61 winners and, after more than four hours of play, clinched his third match point with an assured forehand winner to set up a fourth-round meeting with German Peter Gojowczyk.

“I think without this crowd I haven’t the possibility to win the match,” said Alcaraz. “I was down at the beginning of the fourth set so thank you to the crowd for pushing me up in the fifth.

“It’s an incredible feeling for me. This victory means a lot to me. It’s the best match of my career, the best win, to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas is a dream come true for me.”

Ane Mintegi del Olmo Becomes First Spanish Player to Win Wimbledon Girls’ Singles Title

Ane Mintegi del Olmo has made junior tennis history…

The 17-year-old Spanish tennis player has added her name to the list of junior Grand Slam champions at Wimbledon, making history for her home country in the process.

Mintegi del Olmo outlasted fellow 17-year-old Nastasja Schunk of Germany, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, becoming the first Spaniard to claim the girls’ singles tite champion’s trophy on No.1 Court, fighting back from a set and a break down to outlast Schunk and notch her first junior Grand Slam title.

Mintegi del Olmo won nearly half of the points returning Schunk’s second serve, helping her attain one more service break than her opponent to pull off the come-from-behind victory.

The aggressive play of left-handed Schunk garnered her an 82 percent success rate at net, but the German was undone by 41 unforced errors, compared to just 24 from Mintegi del Olmo.

“The first set, [Schunk] played incredible,” Mintegi del Olmo. “I have nothing to say. She played very good the first set. Then I served better in the second set, and in the third set I play very well. But she played very well.”

At the outset of the match, strong passes intermixed with powerful forehands to help Schunk build an early 3-1 lead. Schunk then broke at love to lead 5-2 and serve for the set, where Mintegi del Olmo fended off two set points and used stellar depth of shot to reach break point. Schunk used her lefty forehand to grit out a hold and a one-set lead.

“In the first set I’m a little bit nervous, but slowly, slowly when I finish the first set, the [nerves] go down and I start playing better,” Mintegi del Olmo said.

Despite dropping the opening game of the second set, Mintegi del Olmo continued to show off improving form, and quickly struck back for 1-1. Mintegi del Olmo used a variety of weights on her shots and superb defense to draw an increasing number of errors from Schunk, and the Spaniard moved ahead 5-3 after firing a strong return to break Schunk.

Serving for the second set, Mintegi del Olmo lost control of her shots to drop serve, but the Spaniard got a bigger opportunity in the next game when Schunk fell behind 0-40, queuing up triple set point. On her second set point, Mintegi del Olmo came out on top in a rally, and the match was leveled at one set apiece.

After saving two break points at 1-1, Mintegi del Olmo took control, using spins and well-timed service winners to reel off the final five games of the affair. A passing winner gave Mintegi del Olmo a 5-1 lead and the chance to serve for the match, and though Schunk used her power game to erase four match points, Mintegi del Olmo converted her fifth to break new ground for Spain.

Both of the junior finalists have already started to make waves at WTA events this season. Mintegi del Olmo pushed former Top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic to a final-set tiebreak in Madrid qualifying. Schunk won two matches to qualify for the Stuttgart main draw on home soil, before falling to Belinda Bencic in her WTA main-draw debut.

https://twitter.com/Wimbledon/status/1414253786697289732

Rafael Nadal to Make Debut at Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

Rafael Nadal is gearing up for hard-court season…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star will return to competition later this month by making his debut at the Citi Open in Washington.

Rafael Nadal

Organizers of the hard-court tournament have announced that the 20-time Grand Slam champion is in the field for the July 31 to August 8 event that serves as a US Open tuneup.

Nadal has not played since his loss to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open last month.

He decided to sit out Wimbledon, which ends Sunday, and the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23, saying his body needed time to rest and recover after the clay-court season.

Other players entered in the Citi Open include Wimbledon semifinalists Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz, who beat Roger Federer on Wednesday.

Wimbledon quarterfinalists Felix Auger-Aliassime and Karen Khachanov also are entered.

The tournament says Rock Creek Park Tennis Center will be allowed to have spectators at 50% of capacity. Last year’s Citi Open was canceled because of the pandemic.

Alex de Minaur to Compete at First Olympics at Tokyo Games

Alex de Minaur is headed to the Summer Olympics

The 22-year-old Uruguayan-Spanish Australian player, who won the first grass-court title of his career at the Eastbourne tournament last weekend, will contest the Tokyo Games alongside Ash Barty,  Nick Kyrgios and Sam Stosur.

Alex de Minaur

The quartet have been confirmed on Australia’s 11-strong tennis team for next month’s Olympics.

John MillmanJames DuckworthJohn Peers and Luke Saville make up the rest of the male contingent with Ellen PerezStorm Sanders and Ajla Tomljanovic joining Barty and Stosur on the women’s team.

Stosur will contest her fifth Olympics, with Millman and Peers lining up for their second Games – the remainder will make their Olympic debuts.

“It’s super special being able to represent your country in one Olympics let alone five,” Stosur said on Tuesday.

“In primary school we did a time capsule thing.

“I went to the school for the first year that it opened and I wrote in there that I wanted to win a Grand Slam, be number one in the world and go to an Olympic Games.

“To have done two out of the three, thinking that when I was nine or 10-years-old … is something incredible.”

Stosur, Tomljanovic and Barty will compete in the women’s singles, with Barty teaming up with Sanders and Stosur with Perez in the doubles.

“Making your first Olympic team … is something I’ve always dreamt of,” Barty said.

“I’m excited to play both singles and doubles. Any opportunity you get to wear the green and gold, I wanted to grab it with both hands.”

de Minaur is world No.15 – his career-best ranking – after winning his fifth career title at the Eastbourne International three days ago.

“It’s an incredibly special feeling (to be going to the Olympics),” he said.

“The anticipation brings a higher level of intensity and, of course, passion.

“Playing for your country, it’s always going to be very special.”

de Minaur, Millman, Peers and Saville have been named for both singles and doubles tournaments with Kyrgios and Duckworth to contest singles only.

The sole Australian to win an Olympic tennis medal, Alicia Molik – who took bronze at the 2004 Games – will captain the women’s team with national men’s coach Jaymon Crabb to skipper the men’s team.

Alex de Minaur Claims First Career Grass-Court Title at Eastbourne

Alex de Minaur is certainly tuned up for Wimbledon…

The 22-year-old Uruguayan-Spanish Australian player won the first grass-court title of his career at the Eastbourne tournament on Saturday.

Alex de Minaur

The No. 2-seeded de Minaur came back to edge No. 3 seed Lorenzo Sonego 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5) over more than 2 1/2 hours in a men’s final in which each player collected the same number of total points, 107-107.

That gave de Minaur his fifth career ATP title and second of 2021. All eight previous finals he had appeared in were on hard courts, including his championship at Antalya, Turkey, in January.

The best Grand Slam showing for de Minaur also came on a hard court with a quarterfinal run at last year’s U.S. Open.

He’s been as far as the third round at Wimbledon.

de Minaur is assured of moving up from No. 18 to a career-high No. 15 in the ATP rankings next week.

Play begins at the All England Club on Monday.

He goes into Wimbledon on an 8-2 roll on grass this month, including a semifinal appearance at Queen’s Club last week.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Diego Schwartzman to Reach French Open Semifinals

Rafael Nadal’s streak may have ended, but he’s still extending other records at the French Open.

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star, the King of Clay, saw his 36-set winning streak end at Roland Garros on Wednesday, but he battled through to a record-extending 14th semifinal at the tournament.

Rafael Nadal

The 13-time champion improved to a 105-2 match record at the clay-court Grand Slam following a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Argentine 10th seed Diego Schwartzman in two hours and 45 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Nadal, who is bidding to capture a record 21st major crown, lost the final three games of the second set in front of 5,000 spectators, but regrouped in the third set and from a 3-4 deficit put his foot down to win nine straight games, and 20 of 21 service points in a row.

“I started badly in the second set, then I was able to come back,” said Nadal. “But at 4-4, returning with the wind, I played a bad game and hit a double fault in the next game. I needed to play more aggressively and I did so throughout the rest of the match. I won an important match today against a tough opponent. I was able to find a way to play my best tennis in the moments that I really needed to.”

He will next challenge World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion with 18 major trophies who beat ninth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini, in Friday’s semi-finals.

Nadal trails Djokovic 28-29 in their legendary ATP Head2Head series, but Nadal won their last match in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final in Rome.

Nadal has compiled a 23-3 match record on the season, which also includes the Barcelona Open title (d. Tsitsipas). He is through to his 35th Grand Slam semifinal and is 26-0 once he reaches the Roland Garros semifinals.