Canadian Tennis Star Loved Back Home Though Falling Short In New York
Canadian 19-year-old tennis player Leylah Fernandez recently represented her country in the U.S. Open final and battled with Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu only to go down in defeat when Raducanu defeated her in straight sets. Fernandez, ranked No. 73 when the major tournament began on Aug. 30, had beat No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, to reach Saturday’s final against British teen Emma Raducanu.
Of special interest were the comments of the father of the Canadian tennis star going into the final. Her father Jorge Fernandez, is an Ecuadorian-Canadian and former soccer player, while Leylah’s mother, Irene, is a Canadian citizen of Filipino descent. In an interview with TSN, Jorge described how special it was to represent Canada on such a big stage.
“My god, It means everything,” Jorge said before taking a long pause while trying to collect his emotions.
“Sorry, you know, there’s a lot of talk in the news about, you know, immigrant people. And I understand in nationalist sentiments and I understand how we need to protect and we only have so many resources. I understand all of that and I don’t want to get political, that’s not what I’m doing.
“What I’m telling you is that we’re an immigrant family, and we had nothing. Got in with nothing. So, Canada opened up its doors, and if they wouldn’t have done what they did, I wouldn’t have had the opportunities that I have, and I wouldn’t have been able to give them to my daughter. That’s it, so, it means a lot.”
Leylah shares that same love, passion, and appreciation for Canada as her father. She had this to say after earning a spot in the U.S. Open final:
“Canada has done so much for us, especially for my dad, for my grandparents,” Leylah said in a television interview with ESPN per the Daily Hive. “They never had it easy, but they fought for everything and all the opportunities that they got they did it two times more just for me and for my whole family, for my sisters, so that we could have a better life. So we can enjoy as much as we can, and not have the difficulties that they had.”
Fernandez had virtually all of Canada behind her as she vied for her first Grand Slam title on Saturday afternoon. She was following in the footsteps of Canada’s 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, who won the U.S. Open last year, and became the first Canadian to ever win a grand slam singles tournament. Both Fernandez and Andreescu are the descendants of immigrants to Canada—Bianca being born in Romania before moving to Canada at a young age, while Leylah being born in Canada. The country was praying for a double miracle.
Canada prides itself for its multicultural and immigrant heritage and that heritage is evident in Canada’s tennis team. Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov’s mother is an Israeli-Ukrainian tennis coach and former player, while Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 21-year-old Montrealer who played in Friday’s men’s semifinal, is the son of a French-Canadian mother and Togo-born father.
Of special note after losing the final, was the touching comment Fernandez made about New Yorkers on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, paying tribute to their resilience and heroic recovery, saying she admired them and that they inspired her in that way.
Following the game, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeteed, “Leylah, you made Canada proud – and we can’t wait to see you on the court again.”
Actually, Canada was not shut out of the tournament. The winner,
Emma Raducanu, was born in Canada before immigrating to the United Kingdom, and is therefore likely a dual citizen. Indeed, what is especially interesting is that a Raducanu/Fernandez fan club has recently formed. No doubt tennis fans will see a lot more of these outstanding athletes.