All eyes are on Leylah Fernandez in the 2021 US Open. The 19-year-old tennis star will match up against Emma Raducanu, 18, of Britain in the women’s singles finals of the Grand Slam tournament on Saturday, Sept. 11. Leylah was relatively unknown prior to the tournament, and wasn’t considered a favorite to win early on. But she defied expectations and has dominated, even knocking out defending champion Naomi Osaka of Japan in the third round. Learn more about Leylah below!
1. Leylah is Canadian.
Leylah proudly hails from Canada, and is representing the country in the US Open Finals. She was in Montreal on Sept. 6, 2002, and eventually moved to Florida, which is where she currently resides. Her father, Jorge Fernandez, is from Ecuador, while her mother is of Filipino descent. Leylah can speak English, French and Spanish, which makes her trilingual.
2. Her father is her coach.
A lot of credit goes to Leylah’s dad Jorge for her booming tennis career. Jorge is her coach, and despite never playing tennis himself (though he is a former professional soccer player), he’s been an amazing mentor to Leylah, both on and off the court. Jorge also coaches tennis to his younger daughter, Bianca Jolie.
3. She’s played in major tennis tournaments before — and won.
Leylah played in her fair share of crucial tennis matches before the 2021 US Open. In her junior career, she reached the Australian Open girls’ singles final in Jan. 2019, but lost to the top seed. A few months later, Leylah won the French Open girl’s singles finals.
Leylah made her professional debut in July 2019 at the Gatineau Challenger, and won in the women’s singles finals. She also was victorious in the women’s doubles tournament with fellow Canadian partner Rebecca Marino. Leylah made her Grand Slam debut in 2020 at the Australian Open, but lost in the first round. The athlete went on to qualify for the Mexican Open, and won 12 sets in a row before suffering a loss against no. 69 seed Heather Watson. In March 2021, she won her first WTA title of her career at the Monterrey Open.
4. She competed at the Tokyo Olympics.
Leylah was among the lucky athletes who qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. She represented Canada alongside Felix Auger-Aliassime. Unfortunately, Leylah was eliminated in the second round 6-2, 6-4 by Barbora Krejcikova of Czech Republic. The tournament was won by Belinda Bencic of Sweden.
5. She was once told to quit tennis.
Leylah may be crushing it in tennis now, but not everyone had faith she would be successful in the sport. When Leylah was younger, one of her teachers had actually told her she should quit tennis — and she smartly ignored that advice. “A teacher told me to stop playing tennis, ‘you’ll never make it, just focus on school,’ ” she said, per WTA Insider. “I’m glad she told me that because every day I have that phrase in my head saying: ‘I’m going to keep going, push through, prove to her everything I’ve dreamed of I’m going to achieve,’ ” Leylah said.