Teen Fernandez’s US Open Final Run A Family Affair

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 09: Fans cheer after Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada defeated Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during her Women’s Singles semifinals match on Day Eleven of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 09, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by ELSA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

 

From her father becoming a tennis coach with no experience to her mother moving away to support the family, Leylah Fernandez’s dream run to the US Open has been a family affair.

The 19-year-old Canadian advanced to her first Grand Slam final on Thursday by defeating world number two Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-4.

Her father Jorge, a former footballer from Ecuador, became a tennis coach to support his daughter’s dream and still plots the 73rd-ranked left-hander’s strategy for every match.

So Fernandez was shocked when she videocalled him in their Florida home after her greatest-ever victory and he asked how she did because he was watching a football match.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 09: Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada celebrates against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during her Women’s Singles semifinals match on Day Eleven of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 09, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier / Getty Images via AFP)

 

“He joked he watched a soccer match,” Fernandez said. “He enjoyed (my match). He had a big smile.”

After the match, Fernandez related the tale of how her mother, a Canadian of Philippines heritage, moved to the United States to make money to support the family and her tennis dream.

“My mom had to go to California for a few years to support my family and I in the tennis world,” she said. “That few years been definitely hard for me because I needed a mom, I needed someone to be there for me through the age of 10 to 13.

“I’ve barely seen her at that time. Every time I saw her, it was like seeing a stranger but at the same time someone so familiar.”

That’s one reason why she is so happy to have her mother watching every match in the stands at the US Open.

“I was just very lucky to have my mom here at this tournament cheering for me and having fun with me all this time,” Fernandez said. “We’ve gone through so many things together as a family. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going on our side.”

Such support helped develop her trademark mental fortitude.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 09: Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada celebrates winning match point to defeat Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during her Women’s Singles semifinals match on Day Eleven of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 09, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sarah Stier / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

“It was definitely hard at first to accept,” she said of her mom leaving.

“I don’t think I only did the job, but also my parents, my dad. He also made the decision one day to pack our things, go to the US so we can be with my mom because it was too much.

“You know what? I’m just glad that we made that decision of doing that, like having my mom go to California, because it made me stronger.

“I think it made my family, too, saying that we’re going to make the sacrifice, it’s going to be worth it so I can make that dream possible.

“I’m just eternally grateful for everything that’s happened to us.”

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 09: Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada points to her box in celebration of defeating Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during her Women’s Singles semifinals match on Day Eleven of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 09, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by ELSA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

Fernandez also took some pride in making her younger sister Bianca cry.

“I’m glad I finally made her cry and it’s tears of joy,” Fernandez said.

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