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19-Year-Old Leylah Fernandez Is Captivating U.S. Open Watchers

Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after winning her quarterfinals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on Tuesday. The 19-year-old is the youngest woman in the U.S. Open semifinals in nearly two decades.
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Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after winning her quarterfinals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on Tuesday. The 19-year-old is the youngest woman in the U.S. Open semifinals in nearly two decades.

Updated September 8, 2021 at 11:51 AM ET

Nineteen-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada is in the spotlight at the U.S. Open in New York.

She's headed to Thursday's semifinals after beating yet another star player, Elina Svitolina, after besting Grand Slam champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

Fernandez, who turned 19 on Monday, is the youngest woman to reach the U.S. Open semifinals since Maria Sharapova in 2005.

A U.S. Open recap described Fernandez as having "a veteran-like ability to reset at the crucial moments."

Fernandez, the daughter of an Ecuadorian father and Filipino-Canadian mother, told ESPN she credits her dad for inspiration. He's been coaching her since she was 6 years old.

"Today he told me to go out there, have fun, fight for every ball, fight for every point," she said. " 'Today's your first quarterfinals, don't make it your last. Don't make it your last match over here. Fight for your dream.' "

She's already beat two former U.S. Open champions, and will face off against a third on Thursday, Aryna Sabalenka. (Sabalenka won in women's doubles in 2019.)

Watch highlights from her quarterfinal match here:

Folks are taking notice:


This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.

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