March 2, 2024
Tennis

Leylah Fernandez – Canadian Tennis Player Profile

Leylah Fernandez

Leylah Annie Fernandez is a professional tennis player from Canada who was born on September 6, 2002. As of August 8, 2022, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) had her ranked as high as 13th in the world. Her best doubles ranking, attained on October 23, 2023, is No. 17. At the 2021 Monterrey Open, Fernandez won her first title on the WTA Tour. She lost to Emma Raducanu, a teenage friend, in the 2021 US Open final despite having defeated three of the top 5 players en route.

Let’s dive into her career profile, personal life, achievements, and more.

Early Life

Fernandez was born in Montreal, Quebec. She pursued her education at Antoine-de-Saint-Exupery Secondary School. Her father, Jorge, used to play football and is originally from Ecuador. Irene, née Exevea, is her mother and a Filipino Canadian. Bianca, her younger sister, plays tennis as well. 

Career

Fernandez reached the Australian Open girls’ singles final on January 25, 2019, at the age of 16, but lost to top-seeded Clara Tauson. As the first Canadian woman to win a junior Grand Slam title since Eugenie Bouchard at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships, Fernandez defeated Emma Navarro in the French Open final on June 8, 2019, earning her the top junior ranking in the world.

In the Gatineau Challenger final, Fernandez defeated Carson Branstine, a fellow Canadian, on July 21, 2019, earning her first professional singles tennis title. Alongside Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino, Fernandez won her first professional doubles title on the same day. The two triumphed over the second-seeded Mexican and Taiwanese teams, Marcela Zacarías and Hsu Chieh-yu. She advanced to her second consecutive ITF final the following week in Granby, where she was defeated by Australian Lizette Cabrera. It was at the Australian Open that Fernandez made her Grand Slam debut. She was defeated by Lauren Davis in the first round following qualification.

The following week, in the 2020 Billie Jean King Cup qualifying round, she defeated world No. 5 Belinda Bencic to record her biggest career victory. She qualified for and made her first-ever WTA Tour final at the Mexican Open in late February. There, she defeated world No. 69 Heather Watson in the final after winning 12 straight sets. She defeated Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens a week later to advance to the Monterrey Open quarterfinals, where she was defeated by Elina Svitolina, the eventual winner. Fernandez advanced to the third round of the French Open in October after upsetting the 31st-seeded Magda Linette in the first round, then winning over Polona Hercog before falling to Petra Kvitová in straight sets.

Fernandez didn’t win her first four tournaments in a row to start 2021. But she won her first four matches at the Monterrey Open in March, and she went on to win the first WTA title of her career by defeating Viktorija Golubic in the championship match. She was the youngest player in the main draw, having turned eighteen, and she went undefeated throughout the competition.

Fernandez’s success as an underdog at the US Open made her a fan favorite. 

A day after turning nineteen, she went on to her first major semi final by defeating third-seeded and defending champion Naomi Osaka in three sets in the third round, former world number one and three-time major champion Angelique Kerber in three sets in the fourth round, and fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina in three sets once more in the quarterfinals. 

She then overcame the second-seeded player, Aryna Sabalenka, to make it to her first major final and become the first player born in 2002 to do so. Three of the top five seeds at the US Open were defeated by a woman for the third time in the Open Era. She lost in straight sets to Emma Raducanu, a fellow teen, in the championship match.

Fernandez made her Indian Wells Open debut as the 23rd seed. She defeated French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round after defeating Alize Cornet in the second, and Shelby Rogers upset her in the fourth.

Fernandez received the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award at the end of the year from the Canadian Press, which selected her as the 2021 Canadian Female Athlete of the Year.

Fernandez made his Adelaide International debut. She proceeded to the round of 16, where Iga Swiątek defeated her in straight sets. As the 23rd seed at the Australian Open, she was defeated by Maddison Inglis in the first round.

Fernandez successfully defended her title at the Monterrey Open in March, making it to her fourth final and taking home her second WTA crown. To get to the final, Fernandez defeated Camila Osorio in three sets, saving five championship points in the decisive set. Before that, Fernandez had defeated Beatriz Haddad Maia, Zheng Qinwen, Wang Qiang, and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. 

In the doubles division, she and her sister Bianca Fernandez also competed. She went on to the second round of the French Open singles competition but was defeated by Clara Tauson. She and Taylor Townsend made it to their first Major doubles final at the same tournament. She consequently entered the top 20 in the doubles rankings on August 21, 2023. 

Fernandez was defeated by Garcia in the second round of Wimbledon following a third-set tiebreak. In the women’s doubles second round, Townsend and Garcia lost to each other once more. In the mixed doubles second round, Townsend and Wesley Koolhof also lost to Garcia and her partner Luisa Stefani.

Personal Life

Real Madrid and Manchester City are two football teams that Fernandez supports. She has fluency in Spanish, French, and English. She is a business student at Indiana University East, which allows players to pursue online bachelor’s degrees while competing in tournaments thanks to partnerships with the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Tennis Benefits Association.

Endorsements

Fernandez is sponsored by the French racquet company Babolat and the Canadian clothing company Lululemon. He currently plays with a Babolat Pure Aero racquet. She was named the first global tennis brand ambassador for Lululemon in January 2022. She continued to wear Asics shoes until Lululemon launched its tennis footwear at the end of 2022, replacing Asics as her previous apparel sponsor.

She is also sponsored by Telcel/Claro, Birchbox, Morgan Stanley, and EasyPost. She is also a brand ambassador for Flair Airlines along with Canadians Eugenie Bouchard and Felix Auger-Aliassime. USANA, Microsure, and Cambridge Global Payments are additional sponsors. She was appointed the Gatorade Canada ambassador in January 2022 and a Google ambassador in Canada for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.

Charity Work

She started the non-profit Leylah Annie & Family Foundation. Whose main goal is to improve families’ quality of life by promoting sports and education.

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