When the 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada dismissed defending champion Naomi Osaka at the US Open, it was a moment Osaka would like to erase from her career book. The loss to Fernandez 5-7, 7-6, 6-4, was a teary moment for the champion and her fans .
The match was overwhelming for Osaka as she was up a set and a break, serving for the match at 6-5 in the second set, only to be denied.
“I guess I wanted to stay on court a little bit longer,” joked Leylah Fernandez, who overcame 15 aces from her opponent. “And I wanted to put on a show for everyone here. An hour was just not enough for me on court.”
The uber-determined Fernandez claimed her maiden WTA title earlier this year in Monterrey, but her Day 5 upset at the US Open now ranks as the biggest win of the 73rd-ranked teen’s career.
When did she begin to believe she could pull it off?
“From the very beginning,” she told the appreciative New York crowd.
The Comeback Kid Osaka would like to forget US Open 2021 Defeat
Osaka, but the Japanese was one step ahead in the crucial moments of sets one and two. That’s just what champions do—particularly when the opposition is as inexperienced as the Canadian, who was playing in just her second Grand Slam third round.
The four-time major-winner broke at 5-all in both sets, and was yet to face a break point as she stepped up to serve for the match. But four Osaka errors (three unforced) led to a tiebreak, where Fernandez’s steady play earned her a 5-0 lead. A visibly frustrated Osaka slumped to a 7-2 tiebreak defeat.
“I guess I wanted to stay on the court a little bit longer,” Fernandez said of her late second-set charge. “And I just wanted to put on a show for everybody here.”
The momentum carried over to the third, as the Canadian broke in the opening game behind more wayward Osaka groundstrokes. The Japanese got as close as 30-all on the return in the set’s sixth game, but Fernandez dropped just six points on serve in the decider to maintain her slim advantage. Showing no sign of nerves, she served out the match to love with the help of her sixth ace. Final score: 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.
“Thanks to the New York fans,” she added in her on-court interview. “They helped me get the win.”