NEW YORK (AP) – Leylah Fernandez is a self-proclaimed “carefree girl” who is having the best time of her life at Flushing Meadows, raising her fists, pumping her arms and infuriating the crowds while beating two former US Open champions for reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final.
A day before her 19th birthday, the unranked southpaw from Canada won the last five games to eliminate 2016 title winner Angelique Kerber 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 on Sunday, demonstrating that more upheaval Defending champion Naomi Osaka’s early defense was certainly no accident.
With courage and cunning, as well as the aplomb of a veteran in the face of big deficits against much more accomplished opponents, Fernandez displays punches and demeanor that let Kerber offer this assessment: “She can go a long way. In the coming years.”
What about next week?
There’s no time like the present for teens of tennis: Carlos Alcaraz, an 18-year-old Spaniard who became the youngest man to come this far at the US Open since 1963, also won the quarterfinals. final at the US Open since 1963. 32-year-old enemy, qualified 141st, the German Peter Gojowczyk, 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 6-0.
Alcaraz, 55, passed number 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in his previous game and is the youngest player with two consecutive Grand Slam wins since Michael Chang was 16 at the 1988 US Open.
There is yet another 18-year-old in action in the fourth round on Monday: Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, who plays Shelby Rogers of the United States
Ask Fernandez the secret to her success, and she repeatedly mentions two factors. We are sure to make the most of our time in the field. The other is the support of the family, because her father, who is from Ecuador, her mother, who is Filipino Canadian, and her sisters “have definitely kept the joy for me.”
She credits daddy – who trains her and gave her instructions on daily phone calls while he gets home, taking care of a younger brother – and mom – leading the cheers along with others Fernandez’s family and fitness trainer in the seats at the edge of the field – for teaching a valuable lesson that has nothing to do with tennis.
They made sure to point out, Fernandez said, that “you can’t take things too seriously, you have to be mature but at the same time be a kid, let go, have fun, eat chocolate whenever you want. , and have fun, watch movies, go past your bedtime.
Much like against Osaka at Arthur Ashe Stadium two nights earlier, Fernandez abandoned the first set against Kerber at Louis Armstrong Stadium, which was so full that potential spectators were turned away at the gates.
And just like against Osaka, Fernandez was led to the second set: Kerber led by a break at 4-2.
Both times Fernandez, 73rd in the table, managed to get people to sit in the seats on his side, exulting with each of his impossible-angle groundstrokes that totaled a 45-28 advantage in the winners.
Fernandez redirects the opponent’s shots quickly and apparently with ease, sometimes dropping to his knees near the baseline to get the right leverage. It’s a style very similar to that of the other left-hander, Kerber, used to reach No.1 in the table and win three Grand Slam titles.
Kerber is 33 and has played well enough lately to qualify for the Wimbledon semi-finals in July, but instead of the experience paying off, Fernandez felt the age difference was working in his favor as the competition lasted two hours.
“I was honestly tired in the third set,” admitted Fernandez. “But with that thought, I was like, ‘If I’m tired, it must be exhausted. “”
Still, in the last set, Kerber held a breaking point with a 3-1 chance to go up. Fernandez erased that chance with a cross forehand. Kerber would not claim another game.
At the end, Fernandez raised his arms, then leaned forward to put his hands on his knees and smiled. She stood up and patted her chest with her palm, as Kerber came around the net to offer a handshake and an arm around Fernandez’s shoulders.
“I remember the feeling vividly,” Kerber said when asked to play with the kind of grip freedom Fernandez displays. “I mean it’s (a) few years ago. But of course, I mean, she has no pressure.
Now Fernandez, who has only reached the third round of a major tournament once so far, will meet No.5 seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals. On Tuesday, another women’s clash will be No.2 Aryna Sabalenka against double Grand Slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza or 2021 French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova.
Fernandez and Alcaraz are among several new faces moving in this most tumultuous US Opens, where the question at the start of each day has become: “Who will pull off the surprise?” – and there are usually several responses each night.
Consider Botic van de Zandschulp who is also part of the Sunday group. He is a 25-year-old Dutchman ranked 117th who has only become the third qualified man to advance to the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows since the start of the Open era in 1968.
As it stands, only nine seeds have reached Week 2, the fewest at the US Open since 2005, and van de Zandschulp reduced the total to one with a 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1 victory over No.11 Diego Schwartzman in 4 hours 20 minutes.
Then for van de Zandschulp comes the n ° 2 Daniil Medvedev, while Alcaraz will face the n ° 12 Felix Auger-Aliassime or Frances Tiafoe.
“Before the tournament,” observed van de Zandschulp, “nobody expected me to reach the quarter-finals here.”
Seems fair. And also applies to players such as Fernandez and Alcaraz.
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