Photo: Susan Mullane/cameraworks usa
Quebec’s Leylah Annie Fernandez pulled off another upset on Tuesday, defeating world no. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) in the quarter-finals of the US Open. Fernandez becomes the third Canadian in the Open Era to reach the final four in New York, following in the footsteps of Carling Basset-Seguso (1984) and Bianca Andreescu (2019).
Fernandez was in for a tough challenge even though she has already posted impressive victories during this Grand Slam fortnight against two former U.S. Open champions, no. 3 Naomi Osaka of Japan and no. 17 Angelique Kerber of Germany. Svitolina won their only previous meeting 6-4, 7-5 in the quarter-finals of the Monterrey event in 2020. The Ukrainian, who just won the title in Chicago and the Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo, had not lost a set since the beginning of the tournament.
The Canadian started the match strong. After losing the first set in her previous two matches, she quickly took control by winning the opening frame 6-3. She was able to break Svitolina in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead and didn’t look back. It’s worth noting that Fernandez has a 51% break point conversion rate, placing her 50th on the tour in this statistical category.
However, the 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist had not said her last word. Svitolina showed her experience by quickly taking a 5-1 lead in the second set. The Canadian showed her fighting spirit throughout the set, forcing Svitolina to fend off four of five break points. However, her higher number of unforced errors (7) and her first serve percentage (55%) allowed her opponent to win the set 6-3 and force a decisive final set.
And what a set it was!
Both players provided the fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium with some exceptional tennis. Fernandez, in particular, started the set like a lioness. Winning two out of three break points and 80% of her first serves, the Canadian hit every ball with conviction en route to a 5-2 lead. With her back against the wall, Svitolina pulled a rabbit out of her hat. Drawing on her fighting spirit and many talents, she managed to even the match and extend it to a tiebreak, much to the delight of the crowd.
Just like earlier in the set, Fernandez quickly jumped out to a 4-1 lead before seeing Svitolina levele the score once again. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian, the Canadian didn’t allow her to complete her incredible comeback. Remaining calm, she got the mini break at 5-5 and was able to close out the match in dramatic fashion 7-6(5).
History has been rewritten. Game, set and match, FERNANDEZ!
The Laval native continues her journey in Flushing Meadows, leaving no one indifferent to her great potential. At just 19 years old (she celebrated her birthday yesterday), Fernandez will crack the Top 50 for the first time in her career next week after starting the hard court season ranked no. 120.
In Thursday’s semifinals, she will face the winner of the match between world no. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and no. 9 Barbora Krejcikova. This would be her first match against Sabalenka whil the Canadian recently faced Krejcikova in the second round of the Tokyo Olympics. She fell 6-2, 6-4 to the Czech.