US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez was told by her teacher to give up tennis and focus on school as the Canadian now prepares to battle Britain’s Emma Raducanu in New York
US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez has revealed that a school teacher forced her to stop playing tennis because she would never make it to the top of the game.
The Canadian, who turned 19 on Monday, stunned world number two Aryna Sabalenka in a dramatic three-set semifinal at Flushing Meadows on Thursday night.
Fernandez now faces Britain’s Emma Raducanu in the first US Open final with two teenagers since 17-year-old Serena Williams defeated 18-year-old Martina Hingis in 1999 – before this year’s finalists were born.
US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez says her school teacher told her to quit tennis
The Canadian, who turned 19 on Monday, stunned world number two Aryna Sabalenka in a dramatic three-set semifinal.
Fernandez was dropped from Tennis Quebec’s development program at the age of seven and will now have the last laugh when she fights Raducanu for a £1.8 million winners’ grant.
And she revealed after her win over Sabalenka at Arthur Ashe Stadium that she was urged to give up her tennis dreams as a youngster, but now uses those doubts as motivation on the pitch.
“A lot of people doubted me, my family and my dreams,” Fernandez said after placing Aryna Sabalenka in second place 7-6, 4-6 6-4.
“They kept saying ‘no’ that I’m not going to become a professional tennis player, that I should stop and just go to school.
‘I remember one teacher who was actually quite funny – not then, but now I’m laughing.
“She told me to stop playing tennis, you’ll never make it, and just focus on school.
“I’m glad she told me because every day I have that phrase in my head that says, ‘I’m going to carry on, persevere, prove to her everything I’ve dreamed I’m going to achieve’. ‘
Fernandez knocked out second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6, 4-6 6-4 in New York City
Fernandez now faces Britain’s Emma Raducanu in the first US Open final with two teenagers since 1999
Fernandez, ranked 73 in the world, has destroyed a number of women’s tennis stars in New York City these two weeks.
She added Sabalenka to the scalp of defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber and fifth seed Elina Svitolina with a win in two hours and 21 minutes.
Fernandez had the crowd firmly behind him, and the roar at Arthur Ashe Stadium as Sabalenka sent the final run was likely heard in her hometown of Quebec, a neighbor of upstate New York.
She said, “I think I’ve done some incredible things. I do not know. It’s like I think a word that really stuck with me is “magic” because not only is my run really good, but also the way I play now.
‘I’m just having fun, I’m trying to produce something that the audience can enjoy. I’m happy that whatever I do on the pitch, the fans love it and I love it too. We’ll say it’s magical.’