Fil-Canadian Leylah Fernandez barges into US Open semis

Published September 8, 2021, 7:49 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after defeating Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during her Women’s Singles quarterfinals match on Day Nine of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 07, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by ELSA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Filipino-Canadian Leylah Fernandez delivered another stunner to reach the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time, while Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev advanced to his third straight US Open semifinal on Tuesday.

World number 73 Fernandez, who had already ousted defending champion Naomi Osaka and three-time Slam winner Angelique Kerber, defeated Ukraine’s fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5).

“I honestly have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” Fernandez said moments after the victory. “I told myself to trust my shots. Even if I lose, I’ve got to go for it. And I’m glad I did.”

Fernandez was inspired by pre-match strategy from her father/coach Jorge, a former Ecuadoran football player.

“My dad told me so many things, but today he told me to go out and have fun, fight for every point,” she said.

“It’s your first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Don’t make it your last. Don’t make it your last match over here. Fight for your dream.”

Medvedev, chasing his first Grand Slam title, eliminated 117th-ranked Dutch qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Semis again,” Medvedev said. “I just want to do a little bit better than the last two times and get this extra step, which is the toughest one, actually.”

The 25-year-old from Moscow was a runner-up at the 2019 US Open and at this year’s Australian Open, where he lost to top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who is trying to complete the first men’s singles Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 by winning his fourth US Open.

Medvedev moved one victory from a possible championship match against Djokovic.

“I don’t think about him, because as we saw, anybody can beat anybody,” Medvedev said. “If he’s in the final, and if I’m there, I’m happy. He’s also happy, I guess.”

Medvedev is assured of playing a first-time Slam semi-finalist for a berth in the final, next facing the winner between 55th-ranked Spanish 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz and 21-year-old Canadian 12th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“Playing against Felix or Carlos I think is already great for tennis,” Medvedev said. “It’s amazing.”

Medvedev won his only meeting with Auger-Aliassime in Canada in 2018 and his only match against Alcaraz in the second round this year at Wimbledon.

Van de Zandschulp hoped to become the first qualifier to reach the US Open semi-finals and only the sixth to do so at any Grand Slam event.

But Medvedev dominated the first two sets before the Dutchman began a fightback, breaking to 4-2 and holding twice to capture the third set, the first lost by the Russian at the Open.

“First two sets he was missing. I was controling the game,” Medvedev said. “Third set he started missing less.”

Medvedev took the only break of the final set on match point when the Dutchman netted a forehand drop volley to end matters after two hours and 23 minutes.

“In the fourth, he served amazing,” Van de Zandschulp said. “He’s the guy who deserved to win.”

Fernandez shocks again

Left-hander Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, snapped the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist’s nine-match win streak with clutch shotmaking as spectators roared their delight.

“Throughout the whole match, I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do,” Fernandez told the crowd. “Thanks to you, I was able to push through.”

She had 42 winners, 10 more than Svitolina, to 31 unforced errors.

Fernandez broke Svitolina for a 4-2 lead in the first set with a backhand winner and held twice to capture the set in 38 minutes, the first set Svitolina surrendered at the Open.

In the second set, Svitolina broke twice to lead 5-1 but Fernandez broke in the seventh game and forced three break points in the last game before a Svitolina ace mandated a third set.

Fernandez and Svitolina exchanged four breaks on the way to the tie-breaker, in which the teenager never trailed and advanced after two hours and 24 minutes with a service winner.

Fernandez booked a semifinal matchup with either second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus or Czech eighth seed Barbora Krejcikova, each seeking a WTA-best 43rd match win of the year.