Made mentally tough by dad, Leylah hurdles first round foe in Australian Open
MELBOURNE—Leylah Fernandez said an early tennis education under her father Jorge had focused heavily on the mental aspects of the game, something she is thankful for on Tuesday after the Canadian won her first match in the Australian Open.
The 20-year-old, who was runner-up to Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open, beat tricky Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, 7-5, 6-2, in searing conditions at Melbourne Park and faces fourth seed Caroline Garcia next.
Born to a Filipino mother, Fernandez said her Ecuadorian father—a semi-professional footballer who took to coaching tennis despite not playing the sport himself—had imparted important values for success in the sport.
“For me, the mental to the physical is three to one. Mental is extremely important,” Fernandez told reporters. “I’m very grateful my parents, especially my dad, has reinforced that.
“He hasn’t really taught me about tennis or technique but more of the mental side of the sport. Because it’s hard. You’re all alone out there on court. Most of the time you don’t have a coach with you or the coach can’t talk to you during points.
“You have to figure some things out, you have to be your own cheerleader, own biggest critic, own biggest supporter. I’m just happy he taught me those values from a young age and that I was able to kind of implement that now.”
Fernandez, who has won two Womens’ Tennis Association titles—both at Monterrey in the last two years—but has largely struggled to match her form from Flushing Meadows, said notching a first victory here was a welcome boost.
“Before the match [against Cornet] and during the match, I wasn’t thinking about that. But after when I did hear it was my first win at the Australian Open, it did feel like it’s a good step in the right direction,” Fernandez said.
“I’ve been playing this tournament for a couple of years, and always fell short of a first-round win. It wasn’t easy to accept, but I was just happy that I was able to get through it and to get another chance to play here.” —Reuters