US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez was told to GIVE UP on tennis and focus on school by her teacher as the Canadian now prepares to battle Britain’s Emma Raducanu for glory in New York
At any other Grand Slam in any other year, Leylah Fernandez would be the women’s finalist hogging the headlines.
Just like Emma Raducanu, the world No 73 is a Canadian-born teenager of mixed heritage who has defied her lowly ranking by reaching the US Open showpiece. And while Raducanu has reached the final without dropping a set, Fernandez’s own remarkable run has seen her swat aside three of the world’s top five.
Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka have all been knocked out by the 19-year-old in three-set upsets during a fairytale fortnight at Flushing Meadows. Not bad for a girl who was dropped from Tennis Quebec’s development programme aged seven – and told by her teachers to forget a career in tennis four years later.
US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez says she was told to give up on tennis by her school teacher
The Canadian, who turned 19 on Monday, stunned world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka in a dramatic three-set semi-final
‘A lot of people doubted me,’ admitted Fernandez after seeing off No 2 seed Sabalenka 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
‘I remember one teacher told me, “Stop playing tennis, you will never make it, just focus on school”. I’m glad she told me that because every day I have had that phrase in my head. I think, “I’m going to prove to her that I’m going to achieve everything I dreamed of”.
‘Now I can say that I’ve done a pretty good job in achieving my dreams.’
Fernandez was born in Montreal to a Filipina-Canadian mother and Ecuadorian father, Jorge, a former professional footballer now her coach. To help her career when she was 12, her family moved to Florida, where Leylah still lives and trains alongside her 17-year-old sister Bianca.
Before her stunning showing in New York, Fernandez’s best performance at a major had come last autumn at the rescheduled French Open, when she reached the third round. The left-hander has only played Raducanu once before, losing 6-2, 6-4 in the second round of junior Wimbledon in 2018.
When she celebrated her 19th birthday on Monday, Fernandez presented the 18-year-old Brit with a cupcake in the locker room. But now the prize on offer is a sweet £1.8million – and don’t expect the Canadian to be quite so generous.
Fernandez knocked out second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6, 4-6 6-4 in New York City