Leylah Fernandez Is Tennis’ New Darling
By Kathryn Maloney
Young Canadian Leylah Fernandez was a name that few knew of heading into the 2021 US Open Tennis Tournament. Fernandez came in ranked No. 73, with little to no one expecting her to make it all the way to the final. Despite losing in a historic final to fellow teenager Emma Raducanu, Fernandez proved that she is a force to be reckoned with and captured the hearts of many fans along the way.
Turning 19 during the tournament, Fernandez took down top-ranked opponents Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Aryna Sabalenka on her quest to the final while displaying incredible poise and grit.
Growing up in Canada with Filipino-Canadian parents led Fernandez to speak three languages: English, French, and Spanish. The family immigrated to Canada with next to nothing and struggled to make ends meet. At one point, Fernandez was separated from her Filipino-Canadian mother who was forced to move to the United States to help support the family as well as her tennis aspirations.
Not only did her family go through a period of struggle, Fernandez was also told to quit tennis and pursue school. With her small size, some believed Fernandez would never make it, but all of this hardship only motivated her to work harder.
Father and coach, Jorge Fernandez, was noticeably absent from Leylah’s first major final. Last time Jorge watched his daughter in the finals, she lost. Jorge’s superstition, which is echoed by Leylah, led him to miss out on even buying a ticket to the US Open final.
“It’s really about superstition,” Jorge told wtatennis.com. “She knows that I’m supporting her from afar. I’ve mentioned in the past I’m in her heart and she’s in mine. When all of this is done, everybody who’s seen it from the stadium? Fantastic.”
So what happens after being a US Open finalist and skyrocketing into stardom? Aside from the MET Gala and countless interviews, Leylah began gearing up for the prestigious tournament Indian Wells soon after she finished celebrating. Focusing on strength and stability training, Leylah hopes to bring the same energy as Federer and Nadal moving forward.
“I remember when I was little and I watched Nadal and Federer’s matches, and I saw how the fans behaved with that kind of attitude,” Leylah told tennishead.net. “That kind of tennis and that’s what I want to bring to the court, the same energy from them, give the fans a smile and they can have a good time looking at my tennis.”
Leylah’s work ethic and poise were on full display at the US Open. In capturing the hearts of fans and showing her talent, Leylah is primed to be the next star in women’s tennis.