US Open: Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez’s remarkable run

image source, Getty Imagesimage captionHer left-handed serves have confounded higher-ranked opponents

"I hope I can be as strong and as resilient as New York has been the past 20 years", Leylah Fernandez said after her defeat in Saturday's US Open final.

It was an emotive moment as the tournament's host city marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The 19-year-old Canadian entered the competition ranked 73rd in the world and beat several major opponents on her way to the final against Emma Raducanu.

Shocked commentators praised her for her blazing left-handed serves.

Her improbable rise began in Montreal, where she was born to an Ecuadorian footballer father and mother whose parents were from the Philippines.

The petite 5-foot-6 (168cm) player defeated superstar Naomi Osaka earlier in the tournament, before going on to triumph over 17th-ranked Angelique Kerber and 5th-ranked Elina Svitolina.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke for many delighted Canadians when he tweeted his support for Fernandez – now a household name in Canada: "We've got a Canadian in the US Open final!"

Fellow Canadian and head coach of the Brooklyn Nets NBA basketball team Steve Nash also turned up to watch her play at a match during the week.

Fernandez said after her semi-final match that Nash's presence was "a huge inspiration".

"I remember my dad used him as an example one time for a whole month, telling us that 'we gotta fight, we gotta work hard just like Steve Nash'."

Fernandez's father Jorge, who stayed behind at home during the tournament with her younger sister, has been her coach since she was dropped from Tennis Quebec's development programme at the age of seven.

He admits that he knew next to nothing about the sport when he started coaching his daughter and taught himself using a mix of books, videos, and his own experience as a former professional footballer.

"The art of being a great coach is understanding that you know nothing," Jorge told The Globe and Mail. "And when you know nothing, all you do is get hungry to find out."

Her mother also made sacrifices for her daughter's career. While Jorge coached Leylah on a full-time basis, Irene Exevea became the family's main breadwinner. She moved to California for three years and only saw her children twice a year.

Fernandez paid tribute to her family following her defeat to Raducanu and promised to return to New York for "the right trophy".

"Thank you for always believing in me", she said. "You guys are amazing, you were there when I was in my lows, when I was suffering, when I was having a tough time. And you were also there when I was having the best of times, so thank you for always having my back."

You might also like:

  • Emma Raducanu – the making of a US Open finalist
  • Teenager Fernandez into US Open semis
  • Live Tennis results

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