VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As Leylah Fernandez continues to stun at the US Open, a tennis club in Vancouver is buzzing — and sports superstars are joining in the chorus of congratulations for the young Canadian.
Fernandez, who turned 19 during the tournament beat out Naomi Osaka of Japan in the third round and Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the fourth before advancing to the semifinals Tuesday. She is the first woman to win against two former world No. 1s at the U.S. Open since 1975. Before the tournament, she was ranked No. 73 in the world.
JJ Mahony, Tennis Director at the UBC Tennis Centre, says there’s only one thing people have been talking about.
“It’s just been massive news the whole last week, it’s sending shockwaves throughout the tennis community,” he says.
“Everyone was talking about the match and her winning another tough, three-set match today. It’s just kind of inspiring all generations of tennis players to tell you the truth. Canadians across the country right now are pretty pumped up in the tennis community anyway.”
The Fernandez Fairytale CONTINUES
— wta (@WTA) September 7, 2021
Often, tennis is dominated by the same stars for years, making a performance like this one all the more exciting for its rarity.
“There was just kind of amazement and shock. Everyone was so hopeful that she could keep it going, but at the same time what she’s achieving is kind of unbelievable and it’s awe-inspiring. People were so happy but it was just stunning,” Mahony explains.
“Straight up, it’s a massive upset.”
Fernandez’s success has caught the attention of NBA legend Magic Johnson, who describes her as “captivating the world.”
If you haven’t seen the most exciting player at the US Open, 19-year old Leylah Fernandez, you’re truly missing out!! She just beat her 3rd ranked opponent and is on fire . She’s captivating the world! @leylahfernandez
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 7, 2021
Steve Nash also took to Twitter to call Fernandez a “certified baller”
And Mahony says players like Fernandez and Bianca Andreescu are changing the perception of the sport, and making it more attractive to a more diverse crowd.
“Now you’re seeing more kids all over the country just kind of being inspired and believing that they could maybe do that too,” he says.
“We are noticing more and more Canadian players popping up now on the world stage, so it’s pretty cool.”
Andreescu — who pulled off a similarly spectacular feat when she defeated Serena Williams in 2019 — also took to Twitter to offer congratulations.
— Bianca (@Bandreescu_) September 4, 2021
For observers like Mahony, one of the things that stands out about Fernandez is her composure and confidence.
“Her age, and the courage she’s playing with — there’s just something about her self-belief at that age that blows me away,” he says.
“It’s pretty unique just have the rising players come and do that well that early.”
Billie Jean King, a champion of women’s equality in sport and widely regarded as one of the greatest women to ever play the game, also sent her well-wishes.
Happy birthday, dream big, and keep going for it! pic.twitter.com/Hqqynviqyv
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) September 6, 2021
Fernandez is from Montreal, and the city’s mayor sent out a message on social media in French — one of three languages Fernandez is fluent in — saying the whole city is cheering for the rapidly-ising star.
— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) September 7, 2021
The semifinal is set for Thursday.
With files from Sportsnet staff and Robyn Crawford