Canada’s Leylah Fernandez continued her remarkable run at the U.S. Open Tuesday, earning a spot in the semifinals with an upset victory over Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
The 19-year-old from Laval, Que., held on through some difficult stretches to post a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) win over the tournament’s No. 5 seed.
Fernandez, ranked 73rd in the world and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her career, broke Svitolina midway through the first set and won 4-of-10 break points across the two-hour-and-24-minute match.
“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez. “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’s 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.
Svitolina, who won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last month, had eight aces and won 72 per cent of her first-serve points, but the Canadian remained patient and agile, dashing across the court to place shots just beyond her opponent’s reach.
“She did a lot of things well,” ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver said about Fernandez. “Her lefty serve is causing a lot of awkward return positions where Svitolina just struggled in the first set.
“How quickly Fernandez takes the ball on the baseline is causing problems for people (and) the angles she’s able to come up with on both the forehand and the backhand.”
Fernandez, currently ranked No. 73 in the world, also beat stars Naomi Osaka of Japan in the third round and Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the fourth.
She’ll face either No. 8 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic or No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the semifinals.
Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 12 seed, is set to face Carlos Alcaraz of Spain in the men’s semifinals later on Tuesday.