NEW YORK -- Leylah Farandez's US Open semifinal was her first major semifinal. She had just turned 19 days old.
After dropping her first three games, she took a lead and was able to win the next three. Aryna Sabalenka, 2 seed, pushed a match full of momentum swings to a back and forth third set. Fernandez didn't worry no matter what. Fernandez didn't hesitate.
Why would she? It seems that the Canadian's potential is just as unlimited as her poise. No foe, no mater how skilled or high-ranked, is an impossible problem. The unseeded Fernandez was quick afoot and steady during crunch time. She defeated Sabalenka 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night. This earned her the right to compete for a Grand Slam title.
Fernandez, ranked 73, won the fourth consecutive set in three sets against a seeded opponent. No. 3 Naomi Osaka is the 2018 and 2020 US Open Champion. Next came No. 16 Angelique Kerber was the 2016 champ. The No. Then came No. 5 Elina Svitolina, and then Sabalenka.
Fernandez could be Canada's second US Open women’s champion in three years after Bianca Andreescu's victory in 2019. "Everything. "Everything. Sacrifices
Fernandez was the daughter of an Ecuadorian father and a Filipino mother. Fernandez was born to Fernandez in Montreal. The Fernandez family lives now in Florida.
The left-handed Fernandez will be facing either Emma Raducanu, an 18-year-old British qualifier, or Maria Sakkari, a 17-year-old Greek player, in Saturday's final. They have never met in Grand Slam title matches.
Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in July, let it all go at the end of both the first and third sets. She double-faulted twice in succession to make match point and then she sailed a forehand.
Fernandez fell to the court and placed her hands on her face.
Sabalenka, who claimed 12 of the 14 first points, was in complete control almost 2 hours earlier. This gave her a 3-0 lead. After eight minutes, most of the spectators had not reached their seats. The 20,000 plus spectators in the stands rallied Fernandez's fist with cheers and chants. Let's go! Begleached by rhythmic clapping.
Sabalenka tried to persuade them at times, waving her arms and asking for their support.
She displayed nary an ounce of hesitation. She showed no sign of nuance. Her game is built around power and a purpose. Always at full speed. Serves at 120 mph Groundstrokes are generated with full force.
Most swings were announced with a loud grunt. Winners were noted with a shaking fist.
Fernandez was able to get herself moving eventually, as anyone who had seen her play over the past week might have expected.
She is all about court coverage and reflexes, reaching every ball and redirecting them back to the net. However, she did manage one love hold early on that featured three aces and a winner in service, though it was slower than Sabalenka’s deliveries.
Fernandez was down from 4-1 to 4 all in a flash. Sabalenka was within reach of winning that set. She led 6-5, while Fernandez served at 30-40. However, that opportunity was lost when a forehand hit the net.
Sabalenka won the tiebreaker 2-0, but then lost her way. Fernandez won every point thanks to Sabalenka's misses, including an overhead flubbed that was several feet long. Fernandez also received a double-fault for a set point. Sabalenka's fourth error in replying to a tiebreaker serve was a backhand return into net. This set ended to cheers from the crowd.
This was the lapse that led to Sabalenka not reaching the fourth round of her first 15 Grand Slam appearances. She then made a remarkable run to the Wimbledon semifinals.
Sabalenka recovered her form in the second set and Fernandez took another step back. Fernandez was only two games away from victory. She served at 4-all in set 2. Fernandez then sailed a backhand over the baseline to break it. Sabalenka held on to love and they moved onto the third set.
Fernandez was able to shine at that moment. Fernandez is making her seventh Grand Slam appearance.