Canadian left-hander Leila Fernandez has led the US Open in charge of a group of young people whose Grand Slam time has just arrived.
Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, defeated fifth-seeded Elena Svetolina of Ukraine 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/5) to defeat defending champion Naomi Osaka and 16th seed. Had given Angelique Kerber.
Combined with the last eight runs of 18-year-old British qualifier Emma Radukano and 55th-ranked Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, the US Open is the party that could be the next generation of stars.
“I think we’re all very hungry for change in the world of tennis,” Fernandez said. “I have had some of them go on junior tours.
“We’ve always talked about it and joked that we’re going on the big stage together. I’m glad we’re doing such great jobs and doing just that.”
Alcaraz sent Greek third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and Radukano did not miss a single seat after starting his slam in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
“We want to make a difference. We want to make an impact in tennis. This tournament proves how well we’re doing everything,” Fernandez said.
“It’s great to see us all so happy and having fun on the court. I think it motivates us to do more. We want to make something special out of this tournament.”
Fernandez has already done so, removing four-time Saleem winner Osaka and holding him back with two more upsets to shine a light on the world stage to give himself two wins as a shock to New York’s hardcourts.
“Well, the first few days it was definitely a bit difficult,” Fernandez said. “I was very lucky to have the ground up the next day to win the doubles. Now I feel like I’m a little more used to it.
“I have a great team around me that helps me keep my head a little bit level and just thinks about my next match, not all the good things that are happening to me.”
World No. 73 chatted and posed with 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and met tennis legend Billy Jane King.
“He told me to go out, have fun, and keep going for my shots. I did it today. So obviously it worked,” Fernandez said.
“It was great to see them, to meet them. They honestly encouraged me to do better today.”
Fernandez received a Twitter mention from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who noted Canada’s Felix O’Groats’ run in the quarterfinals. So what’s the secret to Canada?
“I’d say it’s maple syrup,” Fernandez said. “Canadian maple syrup is great.”
Staying grounded, his first WTA title in Monterey in March only prompted Fernandez to work harder.
“I always went back to work. I went back home to work hard, try to improve my game,” he said. “I was happy that every match I played was getting a little better.
“Today I was able to show all the sacrifices of the previous year so that I could reach this place.”
Fernandez called his father / coach George home in Florida after the match.
“He honestly told me I put him in hell and came back with this match, but he’s very happy for me,” Fernandez said.
“He trusted me and my game, that I was going to do a great job in New York, that I would follow his game plan, that I would solve any problem I had.
“I just relied on myself and I relied on my game and my fitness, that I’ve worked so hard over the last few years that I can get past the final line.”