Leylah Fernandez stuns Naomi Osaka to reach US Open last 16 | Inquirer Sports
Close  

Leylah Fernandez stuns Naomi Osaka to reach US Open last 16

/ 02:27 PM September 04, 2021
Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada celebrates after her match against Naomi Osaka of Japan (not pictured) on day five of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada celebrates after her match against Naomi Osaka of Japan (not pictured) on day five of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez never stopped believing she could beat Naomi Osaka, not even when the four-time Grand Slam champion was serving for the match, and her determination was rewarded.

Three days before her 19th birthday, the 73rd-ranked daughter of an Ecuadoran father and Filipino-Canadian mother battled back to deliver a stunning 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 upset of the world number three from Japan.

ADVERTISEMENT

“From a very young age, I knew I was able to beat anyone who is in front of me,” Fernandez said. “I’ve always had that belief. I’ve always tried to use that in every match.

“I guess today that belief came true.”

FEATURED STORIES

Fernandez, coached by her dad, solved Osaka’s serve in the 12th game of the second set as the defending champion was serving for the match.

ADVERTISEMENT

Instead, Fernandez broke to force a tie-breaker, the rolled to a 5-0 lead while Osaka was slamming her racquet to the court in frustration.

“I was very happy how I played in the first set. In the break I was telling myself to stay positive, keep fighting. ‘I’m there. I’m close,'” Fernandez said.

“In the second set, I guess on the very last game I found the solution to the problem of returning her serve. I’m glad I found it.”

Fernandez said it was a matter of finding the proper position to deal with Osaka’s first serve, which landed 63% of the time to 80% for Fernandez.

“I was trying to find different looks,” Fernandez said. “I started off really far from the line. Then I was just edging closer and closer. Finally I found a pattern to her serve. I just trusted my gut and hit the ball.

“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.”

More than even her first WTA title in March at Monterrey, the victory over Osaka has brought Fernandez faith in what she’s doing.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” she said. “It shows my game is improving and it’s there in the top. I was able to beat a very great, amazing player.

“I don’t know why finally my game is clicking. The past few months, even after Monterrey, I’ve been working hard, training super well. My coach, my dad, is saying be patient, have confidence in your game, it will show in matches. I’m glad it finally did.”

Osaka, who said after the loss she was taking a break from tennis, has played an inspirational role for Fernandez.

“Naomi is a great person, a great player. She has done so many good things on tour,” Fernandez said.

“Just seeing her and learning from her game has helped me shape who I am right now. She’s a great example for anybody that’s on tour and all the little girls in the world.

“I’m just glad I had the opportunity to play against her and show everyone that I’m also able to compete against the best players up there.”

RELATED STORIES

Naomi Osaka keen to change mindset at US Open and beyond

Naomi Osaka felt ‘ungrateful’ for her attitude to tennis

Get the hottest sports news straight into your inbox

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.
Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Grand Slam, US Open
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Subscribe to our sports news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.



© Copyright 1997-2021 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.