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How Leylah Fernandez won the hearts of New York during US Open fortnight

If there’s anything 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez has proven day in and day out during her incredible two weeks at the US Open, it’s that she’s a fierce competitor. That’s what it takes to beat three Top 5 players and a former champion in four consecutive three-set matches to claim a spot in your first major final.

The flip side of Canadian teenagers? There’s no denying that her 6-4, 6-3 loss to England’s Emma Raducanu will hurt.

Fernandez told reporters after the game: “I think this loss, I will have to bear it for a long time. “I think it’s going to push me to do better in training, better for the next opportunities I get.

“But, no, I’m very pleased with myself, with the way I’ve played and the way I’ve played, the way I’ve acted on the court in the last two weeks. I’ve improved a lot not only in terms of tennis but also in terms of tennis as well. emotionally and mentally. I’m happy. Next year hopefully it will be just as good.”

As Fernandez told reporters in all tournaments, she’s been knocked down before. She experienced adversity when she was perceived as too small, too incompetent and simply not good enough to achieve her lofty dream of becoming a professional tennis player.

Fernandez spent two weeks in New York clearing all doubts. With wins over defending champion and world No. 3 Naomi Osaka, 2016 champion and former No. 1 Angelique Kerber, Olympic bronze medalist and No. 5 Elina Svitolina and world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, Fernandez proved His bravery and versatility in one of the toughest runs to a grand final in the past decade.

“I can’t decide which will be on the featured reels,” Fernandez said when asked about what wins she might consider her signature win. “I can only say that I am proud of myself and happy with the way I have fought.

“Naomi, she’s won a lot of Grand Slams, she’s been in this phase for a while. I’m sure many more will come. I’m just happy with the way I’ve played. Against Kerber, she’s an incredibly great fighter, a great player. She is a great example to follow. I always fight for every point. Same thing with Svitolina and Sabalenka.”

Throughout the tournament, Fernandez always insisted that her victory and progress did not surprise her. She has put so much effort into her career that she is surprised at her level. But the soft-spoken Canadian admitted to being surprised by one thing: how much fun it was to join the crowd in New York.

“One thing that really surprised me was that the more I played and tried to get the crowd involved, the better I played,” Fernandez said. “Usually when I was younger, I would try to be as calm as possible, like Federer.

“I’m glad I discovered that for myself, that I play a lot better when I’m more outspoken and when I use the crowd to my advantage.”

In poignant and moving statements in court, Fernandez asked for the microphone to be returned to take a moment to say hello to New York City on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

“Obviously I don’t know much about what really happened, but with the little information I have, I know that New York has suffered a lot over the years,” Fernandez said. “I just wanted to let them know that they’re strong, they’re resilient. They’re incredible.

“Just having them here happy, vivacious, back to the old days, having me support during these difficult times, has made me stronger and made me believe in myself so much more.”

Going forward, Fernandez says her New York run will only fuel her thirst for success. With a run at the US Open, Fernandez will rise to career 27th on Monday.

“I didn’t think it would change my life that much,” Fernandez said. “I’m so lucky to have a great support team and a wonderful family to keep me going.

“With today’s wins and losses, it certainly hurts, but it will make me want to work harder and stronger, just come back to every tournament with the same hunger that I have. participated in this tournament.”

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