With no players from the United States to sign at the US Open, fans adopt a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unranked Canadian teenager with exciting play and enthusiasm to to match.
A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semi-final – and became the youngest player to come this far in the girls’ squad at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 – adding a 6-3 , 3-6, 7-6 (5) win over No.5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday in previous wins over former US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.
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“I obviously have no idea how I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a southpaw with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and only competing in the seventh major in her fledgling career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”
This trainer is his father, who is not in New York; he has stayed at home and offers advice in daily telephone conversations. It certainly helps, as does the strong support she received from the spectators, who stood up and cheered whenever Fernandez raised a fist above her head or twisted both arms after winning a point. key at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“Thanks to you I was able to make it through today,” she told the crowd after edging out Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semi-finals include the US Open 2019.
Fernandez’s fitness trainer, who was jumping and screaming, pointing fingers or shaking his fists, gave no encouragement to get up from his seat. Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other host box.
It was a touch-and-go down the home stretch – even after Fernandez caught the first set, even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way she held a clear advantage: on points that lasted over eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.
Five times Fernandez was two points away from victory but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5 in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she hit a downstream pass shot that passed Svitolina with a rebound off the net.
Fernandez raised both palms, as if to say, “Sorry for the luck,” while Svitolina put a hand over her mouth in dismay.
Svitolina’s setback contributed to his late failure, and when a comeback from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez fell to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to come and hug her.
The next step in this magical race for Fernandez will come yet another test against a player who is higher ranked and who has more experience on the biggest stages of the sport. On Thursday she will face either No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in July, or No.8 Barbora Krejcikova, who won the French Open in June and was the only woman in the round of 16. US Open final with a Grand Slam title.
Sabalenka and Krejcikova’s night game was to be followed by the men’s quarter-final between another young Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime, 21, and Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, 18. The winner will face No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals.
Medvedev, a 25-year-old Russian, secured a place in the last four at Flushing Meadows for the third year in a row, stopping the surprising race of Dutch qualifier Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7- 5.
As in the women’s draw, only one man in the quarterfinals already owns a major trophy: Novak Djokovic, who not only aims for a 21st record, but also tries to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win a calendar year. . Grand Slam.
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Medvedev approached it. He lost to Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open final and to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 US Open final.
The only way for him to meet Djokovic this time would be in the title match on Sunday. But first.
“I don’t think about him, because as we have seen, anyone can beat anyone,” Medvedev said. “If he’s in the final, and if I’m here, I’m happy. He’s also happy, I guess.”