19-Year-Old Leylah Fernandez Stuns No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka to Reach US Open Final

Blake SchusterContributor ISeptember 10, 2021

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 09: Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada reacts against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during her Womenโ€™s Singles semifinals match on Day Eleven of the 2021 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 09, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Leylah Fernandez has just one mountain left to climb.  

The 19-year-old Canadian knocked off No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4, earning a berth in the U.S. Open final and solidifying her run at the major tournament as one of the most improbable in the tournament's history. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Leylah Fernandez advances to the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USOpen?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USOpen</a> final ๐Ÿ‘<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/TSN_Sports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TSN_Sports</a>)<a href="https://t.co/B6zeeBj9XB">pic.twitter.com/B6zeeBj9XB</a>

US Open Tennis @usopen

Leylah Fernandez's dream run in New York has taken her all the way into the final. <a href="https://t.co/wUNjDEiXNg">pic.twitter.com/wUNjDEiXNg</a>

โ€œI have no idea [how I won that match]," Fernandez said in her on-court interview after the win. "I'd say it was thanks to the New York crowd.โ€

The fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium have certainly been along for quite the ride with her. En route to the championship match, Fernandez has defeated No. 3 Naomi Osaka, No. 16 Angelique Kerber and No. 5 Elina Svitolina.

She now awaits the winner of the semifinal between No. 17 Maria Sakkari and Emma Raducanu.

In just two hours and 24 minutes, Fernandez overcame Sabalenka's astounding power shots returned and figured out how to deflate one of the best players in the world. The window of opportunity to do so was about as slim as the teenager has faced during her run. 

Sabalenka opened up a 4-1 lead in the first set, pouring on shots that seemed to completely throw off Fernandez timing. In actuality, the first five games of the semifinal were all the Canadian needed to adjust to her opponent. 

wta @WTA

๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡พ <a href="https://twitter.com/SabalenkaA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SabalenkaA</a> bringing the ๐Ÿ”ฅ <br><br>๐ŸŽฅ: <a href="https://twitter.com/usopen?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@usopen</a> <a href="https://t.co/KgxZVKmDvL">pic.twitter.com/KgxZVKmDvL</a>

US Open Tennis @usopen

It's the second time in three years that a Canadian woman is into the singles final of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/USOpen?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#USOpen</a> <a href="https://t.co/RF0ocPV2YJ">pic.twitter.com/RF0ocPV2YJ</a>

Fernandez stormed back to take the opening set in a tiebreaker that Sabalenka never found herself competitive in. 

That led to a middle frame where both players continued to trade momentum swings. Fernandez would go up 3-2 only for Sabalenka to even things back up. Fernandez took a 4-3 lead, Sabalenka responded with a quick game to knot things again. Finally, Sabalenka took the 10th game in four straight points, setting up decisive third set.  

US Open Tennis @usopen

making the US Open final &lt;&lt; making the US Open final with <a href="https://twitter.com/SteveNash?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SteveNash</a> in your box <a href="https://t.co/LpN1Zc5CXe">pic.twitter.com/LpN1Zc5CXe</a>

It quickly got dicey for the eventual winner. 

Fernandez went up 4-2, but struggled to close out the match. Sabalenka broke Fernandez's serve to get within a game of the lead, and then held serve to make it 4-4. Fernandez went onto win the ninth game, but would have to break Sabalenka's serve to avoid another tiebreaker.

Just like every other test, she passed it with aplomb. 

โ€œI just wanted to be in the finals," Fernandez said. "I just really wanted it. I just fought for every point.โ€