Words By ‘LLERO Editors
Women’s tennis hasn’t exactly been Latinx friendly. While there are greats like Monica Puig, they are considered the exception and not the rule. Leylah Fernandez however is poised to change that. 2021 saw the 18-year-old Canadian tennis pro break out in a big way on one of the biggest stages. The world of tennis and world at large took notice.
Fernandez made it to the US Open Finals. Her performances captivated all who bore witness and she took out some the best tennis players in the world on the way. Defeating four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka, clipping Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina.
Yet, her story is just as compelling as her play. Born on September 6, 2002, in Montreal, Canada. Her father Jorge is a former professional footballer of Ecuadorian descent while her mother Irene was born to parents from the Philippines.
Before picking up a racket, Fernandez tried her hand at many sports. Football, volleyball, and track-and-field were all on the menu. Ultimately though, it was the tennis bug that bit. Yet, not without its let downs. Cut from a development program with Tennis Canada at a young age, it seemed the story might be over before it could begin.
Until her father stepped into the role of coach. Despite not having any experience himself. He encouraged her to tap into those other sports to improve her tennis.
Learning from greats such as Leo Messi, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan were part of the Papa Fernandez curriculum.
It was a change which paid off. Leylah Fernandez turned pro at 17 and never looked back. Accolades like Junior Grand Slam Champion at the French Open became notches on her resume. Then there was Flushing Queens. Many experts and fans expected the likes of Osaka, Kerber and many higher up in the rankings to dominate at the US Open. Fernandez had other ideas.
Much like the greats she studies, Fernandez repeatedly overcame the odds to make it to the final match. Although she didn’t win it all this year, something tells us much like the greats she studies, the immediate defeat will only guaranty her future victories.
We can’t wait to watch.