By CARLO ANOLIN
Leylah Fernandez has always been curious about her Filipino roots, having been born to a Fil-Canadian mother in Irene.
Fernandez, who was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec in Canada, admitted she isn’t really exposed to Philippine culture just yet.
A little knowledge would count, like knowing how difficult it was for her to understand Tagalog when watching Filipino television shows.
“But as I’m getting older, I’ve always been curious about Filipino culture,” said the 19-year-old Fernandez in an old interview with Sportsnet’s Arash Madani. “Mainly, [I want to learn] about the food. I’m very curious what is [their] food. I know the language, it’s very hard… it was the language Tagalog, it was super complicated and I didn’t understand one word.
“But maybe one day, if I have more free time, I can try and learn it if I can,” added the Canadian netter of Filipino descent.
When she gets back home in Canada, lots of Filipino dishes prepared by her lolo (grandfather) await the Fernandez family.
“I am so happy to hear that everyone in the Philippines is cheering for me and supporting me so thank you,” added Fernandez. “Unfortunately, I do now know much of the Filipino culture but I do know that my lolo cooks amazing so hopefully when I get back to Canada in Toronto and visit him, he’s gonna make a really nice dish for the whole family, especially Filipino dish because I do miss it and I just can’t wait to learn more about the culture in the future.”
And one more thing, Fernandez said he
wouldn’t be able to reach this point of her career were it not for the support of her both parents as Jorge, a former football player, became a tennis coach while Irene used to work in California to fund her needs in the sport.
“I was just very lucky to have my mom here at this tournament cheering for me and having fun with me all this time,” said Fernandez after beating Sabalenka. “We’ve gone through so many things together as a family. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going on our side.”
She believes that the US Open stint served as an eye opener for her young tennis career especially after pulling off upsets after upsets at age 19.
“I believed in my game but it also has helped me in opening my eyes that I have no limit to my potential,” said Fernandez, who advanced in the US Open final after beating world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the semifinal.
“And that I can go three sets against these players, that I can play against these and I can win against these top players. So I am just glad to have this experience and see where my games, my tennis game is at, my tennis level is at.”
Before barging into the final, Fernandez, a Canadian of Filipino descent, wowed the tennis world by defeating the likes of fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, former world No. 1 and 16th-seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, and third-seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan.
“But I’m eternally proud of the way that I fought for every point. My mental toughness has been a huge plus for me,” said Fernandez, who just turned 19 four days ago, Sept. 6.
“So I’m just extremely happy with what I’ve achieved this week and off the court I’m just enjoying every minute of it.”