Leylah Fernandez never stopped believing that she could beat defending champion Naomi Osaka in New York. The Canadian qualified for the first round of 16 of her career. She become the tournament’s youngest semifinalist since Maria Sharapova in 2005.
She may not go so far as to imitate the former American player Melanie Oudin, who had written “Believe” (“believe”) on her shoes. But Leylah Fernandez never stopped believing in her during her confrontation with Noami Osaka, on the night of Friday to Saturday. Until beating the defending champion (5-7, 7-6, 6-4) in the third round of the US Open, in front of a crowd under the spell of the 18-year-old Canadian.
Fernandez amazed. By its level of play, first of all, against the world number 3. But also by her ease on the center court, despite her inexperience in major tournaments. The Canadian, 73rd player in the world, qualified for her first round of 16 in a Grand Slam of her career. In the last set, Fernandez managed to blow up Osaka by extending the exchanges, and pushing her to the fault. The Japanese had yet served for the match in the previous round.
“I was telling myself to stay positive, keep fighting. I’m there, I’m close. In the second set, on the very last game, I found the solution to the problem of returning her serve. I’m glad that I found it. From then on I was just fighting, using the crowd’s energy, putting the ball back in as much as I can, just be offensive and go for my shots.
“Even a break down in the second set, or even in the first set I still believed. I still told myself that I’m closer and closer to finding a solution, that I will get that break opportunity, I will have that moment in hand. I’m just glad that I had it and I took it and ran away with it.”
The Canadian tennis player will face in the round of 16 Angelique Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam winner.