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Teenager Leylah Fernandez Beats Elina Svitolina to Reach US Open Semi-finals

Teenager Leylah Fernandez produced another fearless performance to beat Elina Svitolina and set up a US Open semi-final with Aryna Sabalenka. Canada’s Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, showed all

Leylah Fernandez

Teenager Leylah Fernandez produced another fearless performance to beat Elina Svitolina and set up a US Open semi-final with Aryna Sabalenka.

Canada’s Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, showed all of her devastating power to win a tense tie-break 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) in New York.

Svitolina, 26, had overturned a 5-2 deficit in the third but could not stop Fernandez’s thrilling, powerful play.

Second seed Sabalenka dominated French Open winner Barbora Krejcikova 6-1 6-4.

Fernandez has beaten defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber and now Olympic bronze medallist Svitolina in her run to her first major semi-final.

She has shown remarkable composure in New York, backing up her easy power with a calmness and composure on court.

As Svitolina sent a return of serve long on match point, Fernandez fell to her knees and teared up as she was given a lengthy ovation by the fans on Arthur Ashe.

“I honestly have no idea what I’m feeling right now. I was so nervous throughout the whole match,” she said.

“I was honoured to have a fight with Svitolina. I just told myself to go for every point. I’m glad I did.”

Fernandez is the youngest women to reach the US Open singles semi-finals since Maria Sharapova in 2005, getting there a day after her 19th birthday.

The teenagers have made a breakthrough in this year’s US Open, with 18-year-olds Emma Raducanu and Carlos Alvaraz also reaching the fourth round along with Fernandez.

Fernandez has shown them that going one further, no matter the opponent, is possible. She has done it by trusting in her game and her big-hitting weapons, finishing with 42 winners against Svitolina.

As British tennis player Naomi Broady told BBC Radio 5 Live Sport: “This is not a flash in the pan. Fernandez has backed it up match after match.”

Her father, who coaches her, is an ex-professional footballer. As a child, Fernandez says she believed she could beat him in games of backyard football – and it is that self-confidence that has backed up her performances in New York.

She credited her dad, who is at home with her young sister, with giving her tactical support. Her lively support box is led by her fitness coach Duglas Cordero who constantly asked them to make more noise.

“My dad told me so many things but today he told me to have fun,” she said.

“He said fight for every point and to not make the quarter-finals my last match and fight for my dream.”

Fernandez started strongly against Svitolina, breaking for a 4-2 lead and smashing winners past her increasingly passive opponent.

An Olympic bronze medallist in Tokyo, Svitolina was slow to adjust her game, but she mixed defence with offence better in the third to finally break the Fernandez serve.

But Fernandez simply kept hitting and winning the long rallies, breaking back as Svitolina served for the set at 5-1, and creating four break points in the Ukrainian’s next service game.

The scream that Svitolina let out when an ace out wide wrapped up the second set showed how frustrated she was, but she made the first dent in the third set.

Again, Fernandez hit her way out of trouble, choosing her shots carefully and outmanoeuvring Svitolina at the net. Three breaks of serve led to the Canadian serving for the match, but she appeared nervy for the first time, allowing Svitolina an opening.

The tie-break, however, felt like one-way traffic. Fernandez raced out to a 4-1 lead and the points that went against her were largely of her own making, rather than one last push from Svitolina.

The Ukrainian fought hard but she could not stem Fernandez’s momentum, with the two sharing a hug and a brief word before Svitolina left the court.

Svitolina is often tipped as a Grand Slam champion in waiting but she has reached just two major semi-finals at the French Open and Flushing Meadows in 2019.

Fernandez will now face Sabalenka, who is the highest seed remaining in the women’s draw and has dominated her draw.

The Belarusian has been a consistently strong performer on the WTA Tour but had struggled at Grand Slams, before finally making her breakthrough at Wimbledon last month where she made the last four.

The match against Krejcikova, who stormed to her maiden Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros earlier this year, promised much, but the Czech was hampered by either an injury or fatigue.

Sabalenka barely had to move out of first gear in the opening set, countering five double faults with 12 winners to sweep past Krejcikova.

Although Krejcikova did rally towards the end of the second, Sabalenka was able to serve her way out of trouble, saving five of the six break points she faced to close out the match in one hour 28 minutes.

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