While Leylah Fernandez appreciates the past, the 2021 US Open finalist says she’s not living in it.
Returning to the US Open press room Friday for the first time since her giant-killing run to the final last year, the 19-year-old Canadian proclaimed she’s ready to taked the lessons she’s learned since she last sat on that dais into another fortnight.
Fernandez enters the US Open as the No. 14 seed, but is playing just her third tournament since a quarterfinal run at Roland Garros this spring. Forced to miss Wimbledon with a foot injury, she nonetheless says that, on the whole, she’s happy with the big picture of her last 12 months.
“It’s not what I’ve imagined, obviously,” Fernandez said. “I thought everything was going to be perfect. At the same time, I knew there were going to be a few bumps in the road and I was just going to have to find solutions, go through those tough moments.
“I think it was a great learning experience to not only learn about my tennis game, which I’m constantly doing, but also learn about myself, like what are things that I enjoy doing, what are the things that has helped me in those moments, trying to keep getting better and better as a person and enjoying my time on tour.
“I’m just going to enjoy my time here and hopefully we can go for a full two weeks, but we’re just going to take it one match at a time.”
A year ago, Fernandez and Emma Raducanu captivated audiences around the world with their intertwining Cinderella stories in the Big Apple. From Round 3 onward, Fernandez knocked off a “who’s-who” of Grand Slam champions and then-Top 10 players: Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka before being beaten by Raducanu in the final.
Their respecitve runs were life-changing experiences for both. But Fernandez says that the two are happy to talk about anything but New York when they now cross paths in the locker room.
“I think we both have the same mindset, that we want to think about the present and not about the past,” Fernandez said.
“We know New York happened. It was so much fun, but we’re so focused on the tournament that’s happening, our own training, that we’re happy to see each other, we’re happy that we are both doing well. We just wish the best for each other.
“I think doing it here in New York was even greater because New York is where all dreams do come true, where you feel like big things happen…. That’s a perfect story for the both of us. We’ve had different paths, but we’ve been through difficulties together. We’ve achieved our own dreams, our own goal.”
In the bottom half of the women’s draw, Fernandez plays France’s Oceane Dodin in Round 1. She could be a Round 4 foe for players including No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, or unseeded Serena Williams.