New York, September 8
When Leylah Fernandez wins a pivotal point at the US Open — and she’s won enough of them to become the tournament’s youngest semifinalist since Maria Sharapova in 2005 — the teenager with the exciting game and enthusiasm to match raises her right fist or windmills her arms, firing up herself and the crowd.
What often happens next, after good points or bad, is just as important to the success of the unseeded Canadian left-hander with the quick reflexes: She’ll turn her back to the court and her opponent, face the wall behind the baseline for a few moments, gather herself and repeat whatever that day’s mantra of choice is.
During Tuesday’s 6-3 3-6 7-6 (5) victory against No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which followed wins over past US Open champions and former No. 1s Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber, Fernandez focused on self-belief.
“I was only thinking of trusting myself, trusting my game. After every point, win or lose, I would always tell myself, ‘Trust my game. Go for my shots. Just see where the ball goes’,” said Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday and had never been past the third round in her previous half-dozen Major appearances.
Another Canadian moved into the semifinals when 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime’s opponent Tuesday night, 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, stopped playing in the second set shortly after a visit from a trainer. Auger-Aliassime was coming off two five-set wins in a row and conceded this match while trailing 6-3 3-1.
He will play No. 2 Daniil Medvedev next, who beat Dutch Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-0 4-6 7-5.
Meanwhile, World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka bulldozed her way past Barbora Krejcikova 6-1 6-4 to reach the semis for the first time. — AP