Leylah Fernandez’s father, Jorge, once played for the national soccer team in his home country of Ecuador. Today his daughter is playing in the US Open semi-final, in a tournament where she has not just surpassed expectations but blown them out of the water.
The teenager, who has captured the world’s attention with her spirit, her drive, and her perpetual good humor, wasn’t always a lock to make it here. In fact, her father – who is her coach and mentor – is only so because young Leylah was, once upon a time, cut from a Canadian youth tennis development program, and she really, really wanted to keep playing. Not just that, she wanted to get better.
Jorge knew very little about tennis. But he did know about what it took to be a professional athlete. The patience, the hard work, the dedication. And he strived to teach his daughter just that.
The results speak for themselves.
Unseeded 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez's dream run continues in New York! pic.twitter.com/5xp0YYXxrB
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 7, 2021
Q. Did you always win those matches?
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) September 8, 2021
Her father is not the only member of her team, and not her only support. Her sister, Bianca, a tennis player herself, is now in New York supporting her sister. So is her mother Irene. Her father, who didn’t join her in New York, is in constant communication, both for strategy sessions and for pure old support.
Jorge Fernandez, Leylah Annie's dad/coach, remains back in Florida … they decided not to change the winning routine
But younger sister Bianca Jolie, who played an ITF event in Spain last week, has arrived in New York
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 7, 2021
Watch @leylahfernandez celebrating after winning last point vs @AngeliqueKerber watch to see her Filipina mom Irene cheering from her box super proud ! Mabuhay ! Leyla is thru to the quarterfinals ! @usopen @PlayitRightTV pic.twitter.com/sRasqXzunt
— Dyan Castillejo (@DYANCASTILLEJO) September 5, 2021
"My dad told me to have fun today and fight for your dream," says Leylah Fernandez.
Crowd goes crazy.
What a scene at the largest tennis stadium in the world with the young Canadian holding court. #USOpen
— Devin Heroux (@Devin_Heroux) September 7, 2021
Tennis is a very lonely sport. Once you’re on the court, you’re there alone. No one can tell you what to do. No one can guide your reactions. Strategy, the people around you, are for before. The game, the game is all you. But that’s okay, Leylah has proven she can handle the tennis. And with her family behind her, she can probably handle the rest too.
We’ll be watching.