Teenager Leylah Fernandez beats Elina Svitolina to reach US Open semifinals

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CNN 08 September, 2021 - 03:33am 51 views

Why is Fernandez dad not at the US Open?

Fernandez's coach and father, Jorge Fernandez, did not travel from Florida to New York reportedly because he's superstitious. ... Said Leylah after her latest win: “My dad told me so many things but today he told me to go out there, have fun, fight for every point. Forbes19-Year-Old Leylah Fernandez Is Doing Things At The U.S. Open Nobody Has Done Since Serena Williams

US Open 2021: Leylah Fernandez becomes youngest woman since Serena Williams to beat 2 top 5 seeds

Yahoo Sports 08 September, 2021 - 06:50am

Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde, Pete Thamel

Andy Behrens, Dalton Del Don, Matt Harmon, Liz Loza, Scott Pianowski

You Pod to Win the Game

Check back here for updates from Day 9 of the US Open. 

Leylah Fernandez cannot be stopped, and neither can her amazing Cinderella story. 

The 19-year-old, in her first US Open appearance, nailed down another landmark win on Tuesday, defeating No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-5(5). It's the second time in the tournament she's beaten a top five seed (she also beat Naomi Osaka, the No. 3 seed) making her the youngest player to do that since Serena Williams in 1999.

The first set was all Fernandez. She looked magnificent against Svitolina, reaching and sliding and playing angles you didn't think she could. Playing fearless tennis, she got the first break of the match, and won the set in quick order. 

We have our first break of the match!@leylahfernandez takes an early 4-2 lead over Svitolina. pic.twitter.com/JDBJYGsitu

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

One set away from the semifinals 👀@leylahfernandez takes the opener 6-3 over No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina. pic.twitter.com/MsMiM2upl5

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

Svitolina hadn't given up, though. She came back with a vengeance in the second set, fighting Fernandez for every single point and willing herself back into the game. 

🇺🇦 @ElinaSvitolina is WORKING that backhand right now. pic.twitter.com/l4d2dsUN9R

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

Fernandez got ahead early in the third set, but she couldn't hold the lead. Svitolina wouldn't let Fernandez just have the win, and eventually tied the set at 5-5 when Fernandez couldn't close. Then they tied at 6-6 and went to a tiebreak — the only way such a thrilling, high-level match could end. 

And Fernandez did it. Svitolina had a shot, tied at 5-5, to win it all. But she fell behind on a brilliantly placed shot from Fernandez, and then hit it into the net on the last point of the match. When she won, Fernandez fell to her knees, completely overwhelmed and crying happy tears.

SHE'S DONE IT @leylahfernandez upsets No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina to reach the #USOpen semifinals! pic.twitter.com/2TZTLlftsT

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

Just one day after her 19th birthday, she's on to her very first Grand Slam semifinal, where she will face...

In a tournament without two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka (thanks to Fernandez) and world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, the tournament favorite is No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka. And she keeps playing like it.

Sabalenka defeated No. 8 seed Barbora Krejčíková 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals, where she will play Fernandez as the teenager's biggest challenge yet.

Sabalenka into the semis!@SabalenkaA | #USOpen pic.twitter.com/o5a9Do7pEB

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2021

Sabalenka is coming off her first career Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon this year and currently holds BetMGM's highest odds to win it all in New York at +140. Fernandez sits in third at +550.

While Fernandez's run will reach the semifinals, one of the other teenagers remaining in the tournament wasn't so fortunate.

Carlos Alcarez, 18, retired in his quarterfinal match against Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime due to injury. At the time, he was down 6-3, 3-1. Alcaraz rocketed into prominence with his defeat of No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and was the first teenager to reach the quarterfinals of the men's singles tournament since Michael Chang.

Unfortunately, he didn't get a chance to see his campaign through.

Botic van de Zandschulp's fairy tale run at the US Open has come to an end. The unseeded 25-year-old made it all the way through to the quarterfinals, but couldn't overcome the No. 2 seed, Daniil Medvedev, who beat him 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5. 

Van de Zandschulp never stopped fighting, though it looked like it was going to be a short match after the second set. Medvedev was dominant, completely overwhelming van de Zandschulp.

One way traffic 🚖@DaniilMedwed cruises through the second set 6-0. pic.twitter.com/Gddq0Xroy8

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

But it wasn't over. Van de Zandschulp had a brilliant third set, which kept him in the game. 

Botic van de Zandschulp is DANGEROUS at the net 👏 pic.twitter.com/OxxRMNqlLb

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

Sadly, the comeback wasn't meant to be. Van de Zandschulp and Medvedev battled in the fourth set, but Medvedev managed to win the set and end the match. He's not the world No. 2 for nothing, folks. 

Through to the Final Four 💪@DaniilMedwed | #USOpen pic.twitter.com/OTocAHVos2

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

During his five rounds at the US Open, van de Zandschulp beat the No. 11 seed and the No. 8 seed, and that was after going through a number of qualifying matches in the lead up to the actual tournament. Grand Slam season may be over, but everyone will be excited to see what he'll bring to the court when it starts again next year. 

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021

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Leylah Fernandez, one day after turning 19, tops Elina Svitolina, advances to US Open semifinals

ESPN 08 September, 2021 - 06:50am

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NEW YORK -- With no players from the United States left to pull for in the US Open, the fans are adopting a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match.

A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semifinal -- and became the youngest player to get that far in the women's bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 -- by adding a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) victory against No. 5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday to earlier 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 nascent 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 Tokyo Olympics 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.

Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears. It seems to be working, as Sabalenka made her initial Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in New York.

Osaka earns support after announcing break from sport

INQUIRER.net 08 September, 2021 - 06:50am

Barker: Teenager Leylah Fernandez provides another shocking upset

Newsday 05 September, 2021 - 09:02pm

What is teenager Leylah Fernandez’s biggest challenge as she guns for the top of the tennis world?

It is telling that Fernandez didn’t list Naomi Osaka or Angelique Kerber or any other top player when she was asked that question at the start of the U.S. Open. Instead, she listed the things she has had to give up as she pursues a tennis career.

"I don’t have a normal teenage life to go to school, make friends or to the prom or graduation," Fernandez said in an interview on the WTA website. "Those are the things you see in movies and you think, oh, I want to kind of go through that and see how it is.

"But I made a decision that [going] pro was my No. 1 thing and I did the necessary sacrifices to keep training and just try to improve every day."

Those sacrifices have paid off this week with an absolutely magical run.

Two days after knocking off No. 3 Osaka, she came up big again against a multiple Grand Slam champion. Fernandez rallied from a set down to defeat No. 16 Kerber, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, on Sunday to move to the quarterfinals.

Fernandez, who will turn 19 on Monday, will play Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist and No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina on Tuesday for a semifinal spot. Svitolina is the second-highest-ranked player left after the exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and Osaka.

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Tennis great and ESPN commentator Chris Evert is a believer after watching Fernandez outlast Kerber.

"I did not see this coming," she said. "I saw the Naomi Osaka match coming, but when I saw she was playing Angelique Kerber, I didn’t think she could duplicate that standard of tennis . . . This is her tournament. This is a Cinderella story for her."

The 73rd-ranked Fernandez isn’t the only young player having a fairy-tale-like tournament.

She is one of three 18-year-olds still playing. Emma Raducanu of Britain will play Monday in a fourth-round match. Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, a five-set winner over Peter Gojowczyk on Sunday, is into the quarterfinals.

"To have so many young players coming through is just really great for the game, because it just shows how strong this next generation is," said Raducanu, who next plays American Shelby Rogers. "Having so many young players, I think we all inspire each other to play better."

There definitely was something inspiring in the way Fernandez battled back to beat Kerber.

Just as she did against Osaka at Arthur Ashe Stadium two days earlier, Fernandez dropped the opening set and found herself trailing in the second. This time, Kerber was up a break at 4-2 when Fernandez came back to force a tiebreaker before winning the set. Kerber’s energy seemed to fade in the third and the teen took charge of the match.

"Yeah, I think she played also one of her best matches in her career, and she had nothing to lose," Kerber said. "I think at the end it was just two, three points which decide the match. She took it in her hands."

Indeed, Fernandez has nothing to lose. She has come further than anyone — except herself — expected her to. And at this point, no one seems to be having more fun on the court.

There are those times when she wonders what it would be like to be an ordinary teenager. But not right now.

"I did have to pinch myself a little bit to see that it actually happened," Fernandez said when asked how she felt about beating two great players in a row. ". . . I chose this profession, and I want to enjoy it as much as possible."

Barbara Barker is an award-winning columnist and features writer in the sports department at Newsday. She has covered sports in New York for more than 20 years.

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