“If you haven’t seen the most exciting player at the US Open, 19-year old Leylah Fernandez, you’re truly missing out!!”Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Leylah Fernandez’s incredible US Open run captured the hearts of the tennis world
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Leylah Fernandez has captured the attention of the tennis world. The Montreal native is currently ranked 28th in the world according to the Women’s Tennis Association rankings after her incredible US Open tournament. A performance that was truly one for the ages.
She defeated Naomi Osaka in the third round. Fernandez later defeated 16th seed, Angelique Kerber, in the round of 16. Then she beat 5th seed, Elina Svitolina, in the quarterfinals. The magical run continued with Fernandez upsetting Aryna Sabalenka—ranked number 2—in the semi-finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Unfortunately, she lost in the finals to Emma Raducanu (6-4, 6-3), an 18-year-old tennis phenom in her own right from Great Britain (but was born in Toronto). Raducanu entered the US Open ranked 150th, and her tournament win boosted her ranking to number 22. Despite losing, Fernandez had already claimed victory after capturing the hearts and imagination of tennis fans worldwide.
During the media interview following her loss to Raducanu, Fernandez showed remarkable humility and maturity beyond her years (she turned 19 five days before the US Open final). Although Fernandez was disappointed in losing the match, she was gracious in defeat and congratulated Raducanu on her victory.
As well, the match also occurred on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Fernandez addressed the crowd and spoke about the tragedy—despite not being born when it happened: “I know on this day, it’s especially hard for New York and everyone around the United States. I just want to say that I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been in the last 20 years. Thank you for always having my back. Thank you for cheering for me. I love you, New York.”
During Fernandez’s magical run at the US Open, she caught the attention of former sports greats like Earvin “Magic” Johnson who Tweeted on September 7: “If you haven’t seen the most exciting player at the US Open, 19-year old Leylah Fernandez, you’re truly missing out!! She just beat her 3rd ranked opponent and is on fire [six fire emojis]. She’s captivating the world!”
NBA.com reported former NBA star and fellow Canadian, Steve Nash, who is now the coach of the Brooklyn Nets, attended Fernandez’s semi-final match. Fernandez spoke to the media about how important it was to have Nash in the audience. “It’s a huge inspiration,” she said. “I remember my dad used him as an example one time for a whole month, telling us that we gotta fight, we gotta work hard just like Steve Nash, so it’s an honour to have you here watching me and cheering for me.”
On September 14, Fernandez gave a press conference in Montreal. She spoke about her amazing run at the US Open as well as hoping her run in New York would inspire young female tennis players. “It feels amazing, you know not many people really watch female tennis, so I’m very glad that I was able to do something special on the court that inspires other people,” she said. “[I hope more people and tennis fans have a chance] to watch our matches, not only mine but also women’s tennis because there’s so many good players.”
Fernandez is currently training for her next tournament where she will compete in the upcoming Indian Wells Masters tournament (October 4-17). In March 2021, Fernandez won her first WTA title of her career—at the WTA 250 Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico.