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Wow! Leylah pulls off another thrilling 3-setter at US Open

Leylah Fernandez (AFP)
Leylah Fernandez (AFP)

NEW YORK (AFP) – Leylah Fernandez, the 19-year-old Canadian with a Filipino blood, delivered another stunner to reach the US Open semifinals on Tuesday by defeating Ukraine’s fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5).

Fernandez will play her first Grand Slam semifinal against the winner of a later match between second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and

Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev advanced to his third straight US Open semifinal with a 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5 demolition of 117th-ranked Dutch qualifier Botic Van de Zandschulp at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

World No. 73 Fernandez, who had already ousted defending champion Naomi Osaka and three-time Slam winner Angelique Kerber, was ultra elated with her third straight 3-setter win.

“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 Ecuadorian 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.”

“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.

Mevedev 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.

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 semi-final 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.

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Written by Tempo Desk

Tempo 08 September 2021, Wednesday issue

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