US Open 2021 - Leylah Fernandez fairytale continues as Canadian teenager downs Aryna Sabalenka to reach final
Leylah Fernandez held her nerve at the business end in the deciding set of what was a dramatic and pulsating US Open semi-final clash to overcome second seed Aryna Sabalenka. It has been a remarkable run against the odds from the 19-year-old, and she will now take her place in Saturday's showpiece final at Flushing Meadows.
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Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez stunned second seed Aryna Sabalenka to win a classic US Open semi-final, 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4, to secure her place in the final.
It has been a fairytale run for the unseeded 19-year-old, and she ultimately triumphed in a tense and enthralling clash at Arthur Ashe Stadium to secure her place in Saturday's showpiece.
Fernandez somehow recovered from three games down and Sabalenka being absolutely dominant to take the opening set in a remarkable turnaround and, despite losing the second, responded to win the decider in thrilling fashion.
From the outset, the Canadian found herself very much under the cosh in the face of some staggering power hitting, but once again demonstrated her resilience and character in biding her time to stage a recovery.
Sabalenka's level at the beginning of the match was of such a high standard that, at times, she was utterly unplayable. Indeed, she roared into a 4-1 lead with power hitting which seemed impossible to counter.
But Fernandez, to her credit, persevered admirably and simply hung in there long enough for her opponent's fearless play to eventually wilt and she was then able to launch her comeback.
Not only did the Canadian repair the early damage, but she was then able to kick on and take the opening tie-break in style. It was an unbelievable reversal following the early stages.
With the typically boisterous crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium leaving no one in any doubt as their allegiance with every Fernandez point receiving roars of approval, Sabalenka did remarkably well to regain her poise and composure.
Canada's Leylah Fernandez celebrates after winning the first set against Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka during their 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women's semifinal match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York
Image credit: Getty Images
The Belarusian broke early on - just as she did in the opening set - but this time she was able to consolidate in impressive fashion to close it out from 5-4 and level up the match.
Fernandez did very little wrong in the second set, but somehow Sabalenka's hitting was more controlled and she even came into the net on occasions to further assert herself at key moments.
The deciding set was as tense as it gets with both players giving absolutely everything to seize the initiative once more and it was Fernandez who did so to break at 3-2 with Sabalenka hugely frustrated.
The second seed's annoyance with herself grew further as she squandered three break points in the very next game, but she did bounce back with a blistering forehand winner after an extended deuce.
With the pressure immense and serving to stay in tournament, Sabalenka suddenly struggled once more and Fernandez was utterly ruthless in capitalising when it really mattered to break again and secure another famous win.
"It is thanks to the New York crowd, they have helped me and cheered for me and never gave up for me, they fought for me," Fernandez said in her on-court interview.
"Thank you, New York! That is years of hard work and tears and blood on court and sacrifices, I really wanted it, I fought for every point. Aryna fought for the same thing and I don't know how I got the last point in but I am glad I'm in the final.
"My mental toughness has come from years and years of hard work and blood. On-court and off-court sacrifices. I just I really wanted to be in the final. I fought for every point."