US Open: Giantkiller Leylah Fernandez topples Svitolina to reach semi-finals

Leylah Fernandez has reached the US Open semi-finals, one day after turning 19.

The Canadian ingenue continued her stunning run through the tournament by upsetting No 5 seed Elina Svitolina 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) before a lively afternoon Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd squarely in her corner.

Fernandez won the last two points of the tiebreaker to give her another three-set victory after knocking off past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber in her previous two matches.

Fernandez, whose father was born in Ecuador and whose mother is Filipino-Canadian, becomes the youngest player to defeat two players ranked in the WTA’s top five since Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open, where the American won the first of her 23 career grand slam titles.

The young Canadian, who becomes the youngest semi-finalist at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova, has demonstrated ferocious ball striking, immense athleticism and a tremendous competitive zeal in her run.

It was another sensational match at a tournament that keeps hitting new heights, and Fernandez said: “I honestly have no idea what I’m feeling right now. Throughout the whole match I was so nervous.

“I was trying to do what my coach told me to do. Thanks to the New York crowd, cheering me on, fighting for me and never giving up, I was able to push through today.

“Svitolina, she’s a great player, she fought for everything, she runs for everything. I’m honoured to have a fight with her. I just told myself to trust my shots, trust that everything’s going to go well. Even if I lose, I’ve got to go for it, and I’m glad I did.”

Fernandez has become a big crowd favorite and there was a first glimpse of what has already become a trademark celebration – part exhortation to the stands, part fist pump – when she broke Svitolina to lead 4-2 in the opening set.

Svitolina, who had not dropped a set through four matches, has reached the latter stages of grand slams many times without ever really threatening to win one.

It has been an excellent summer for the Ukrainian on and off the court, though, with her wedding to fellow player Gael Monfils followed by a much treasured Olympic bronze medal.

Monfils cheered from the stands alongside Svitolina’s British coach Andrew Bettles as the fifth seed mounted a second-set recovery, cutting out the errors and moving into a 5-1 lead.

Back came Fernandez, who had chances to get back on serve at 5-4, but Svitolina quelled the teenager’s fire to level the match.

The momentum and experience was with Svitolina but Fernandez has been tearing up the script all fortnight and, as she had against Kerber, she saved her best for the deciding set.

Fernandez was everywhere and, although Svitolina hit back straight away after being broken for 3-1, the Canadian struck again and opened up a 5-2 lead.

Svitolina, though, was not finished, showing terrific mental fortitude of her own to get back on level terms and force a deciding tie-break.

Nerves were on display from both, with Fernandez opening up a 4-1 lead only to help Svitolina level at 4-4.

A net cord on a passing shot helped Fernandez bring up a first match point, and Svitolina blazed a return long as the tournament of the teens continued.

On Thursday, she will play No 2 Aryna Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in July, who defeated French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-1, 6-4 in the opening match of the night session.

Waiting for her prime-time match, Sabalenka said she practiced during Fernandez’s match with Svitolina, “and we didn’t really need to watch the score because we heard the crowd really yelling”.

Krejcikova was the only woman remaining in the field who already has a grand slam title.

But she said her play was affected against Sabalenka by “not really being in a perfect shape” after dealing with cramps and dizziness in her fourth-round win Sunday over two-time major champ Garbine Muguruza. Krejcikova took a medical timeout late in the match, then took her time between points down the stretch, and Muguruza told her that behavior was “so unprofessional”/

Asked about that Tuesday, Krejcikova said: “I got really humiliated by a grand slam champion, which I’ve never seen”.

As in the women’s draw, only one man in the quarter-finals already owns a major trophy: Novak Djokovic, who not only is seeking a record-breaking 21st but also trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win a calendar-year grand slam.

Medvedev has come close. He lost to Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open final and to Rafael Nadal in the 2019 US Open final.

The only way he could meet Djokovic this time would be in the title match on Sunday. But first things first.

“I don’t think about him, because as we saw, anybody can beat anybody,” Medvedev said. “If he’s in the final, and if I’m there, I’m happy. He’s also happy, I guess.”