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.

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.

Nadia Podoroska Becomes First Qualifier in Open Era to Reach French Open Women’s Semifinals

Nadia Podoroska continues to surprise while making history at Roland Garros

The 23-year-old Argentine tennis player knocked out Elina Svitolina, the French Open‘s third seed on Tuesday, becoming the first qualifier to reach the women’s semifinals at the French tournament in the Open era.

Podoroska threw her racket in the air, tilted her head back and pumped both fists after stopping Svitolina from reaching a third semifinal in her past four Grand Slam tournaments.

Ranked 131st in the world, Podoroska had never won a main draw Grand Slam match before last week, and she could hardly believe it when she won 6-2, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Podoroska is only the third female qualifier to get to the semifinals at any major tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968, and the first since Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999.

Afterward, she was asked whether she was pinching herself to make sure it wasn’t all just a dream.

“No,” Podoroska replied. “I don’t want to wake up.”

Serving at 5-4 down, Svitolina saved two match points, the second with an audacious slice at the net to end a 27-shot rally.

But on the third match point, Podoroska hit a crisp forehand winner and then chucked her racket up toward the blue sky.

Podoroska, who is from the same city in Argentina as soccer superstar Lionel Messi, said she considered quitting tennis altogether a couple of years ago after “too many injuries,” including to her right wrist.

She was off the tour for eight months; her ranking dropped; she didn’t have enough money to travel to tournaments; she split with a coach she’d been working with for a decade.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Podoroska said.

She stuck with it, though, and now has a new team around her, based in Spain. And, by far, the best results of her career.

Svitolina, though, blamed herself for this outcome.

“Lots of things were not going my way,” Svitolina said. “I was not 100 percent mentally on it today, and that was really disappointing.”

In the semifinals, Podoroska will face unseeded 19-year-old Iga Swiatek.

Nadia Podoroska Advances to French Open Quarterfinals

Nadia Podoroska continues her Cinderella run at the French Open

The 23-year-old Argentine tennis player, a qualifier at this year’s event, outlasted the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in her maiden appearance at the Grand Slam tournament.

Nadia Podoroska

Podoroska, ranked No. 131 in the world, will face third seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine for a place in the semifinals.

Podoroska was the second qualifier to make the tournament’s last eight on Sunday following Italian world No. 159 Martina Trevisan‘s win over Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens.

Podoroska, who was ranked at No. 255 at the start of the season, has now won 42 matches across all tours in 2020, despite the truncated season, and will make her top 100 debut after the tournament.

She will now bid to emulate compatriot Paola Suarez who made the semifinals in Paris in 2004.

Three years ago, on her only other visit to Paris, Podoroska fell in the first round of qualifying, losing to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in just 39 minutes, winning just 21 points.

Caroline Garcia Advances to Seminals at the WTA Finals

Caroline Garcia is making the most of her first WTA Finals appearance…

In her WTA Finals debut, the 26-year-old part-Spanish player advanced to the semifinals on Friday when top-ranked Simona Halep lost to Elina Svitolina.

Caroline Garcia

Garcia defeated Caroline Wozniacki 0-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the early Red Group match, giving both 2-1 records. Wozniacki had already advanced, but Garcia had to wait. When Svitolina beat Halep 6-3, 6-4 later in the day, the top-ranked Romanian was eliminated and Garcia was through as the group winner.

In the semifinals, Garcia will play Venus Williams and Wozniacki will face Karolina Pliskova.

Garcia, playing at a career-high No. 8 ranking after winning back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing, is the only one of the eight players who didn’t have a chance to end the season with the top ranking.

“It was kind of weird, actually, to be here,” Garcia said. “I qualified last minute, two weeks before. I really wanted to keep improving, play every single match and get experience. That’s why I think I won these two matches.

Cabal & Abigail Spears Reach Mixed Doubles Final at Australian Open

Juan Sebastian Cabal is getting a second chance to become a Grand Slam champion…

The 30-year-old Colombian tennis player and his partner Abigail Spears defeated Elina Svitolina and Chris Guccione, 7-6, 6-2, in the semifinals to reach the Mixed Doubles championship round at this year’s Australian Open.

Juan Sebastian Cabal & Abigail Spears

It’s Cabal’s second appearance in a Grand Slam final, his first in mixed doubles. He previously played in the 2011 French Open men’s doubles final with Eduardo Schwank, losing a close match to Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi in three sets.

Cabal and Spears will play Sania Mirza and Ivan Dodig in the mixed doubles final on Margaret Court Arena.

It’s only the third time a Colombian player has reached a Grand Slam final. Following Cabal’s appearance in the 2011 French Open men’s doubles final, Robert Farah appeared in the mixed doubles final at last year’s Wimbledon. He and partner Anna-Lena Grönefeld lost to Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen in straight sets.

Muguruza Pulls Off Upset Win Over Simona Halep at Wuhan Open

Garbine Muguruza’s list of upset victories is growing…

The 20-year-old half-Spanish-half-Venezuelan tennis player stunned second-seeded Simona Halep by beating her at China’s Wuhan Open on Tuesday, coming back for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory in the second round.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza, who beat top-ranked Serena Williams in the second round at this year’s French Open, dropped the first set in 35 minutes but won the first four games of the second set and the last four games of the third to advance at the inaugural tournament.

Muguruza, currently ranked No. 22 in the world, next faces Elina Svitolina in the third round.