Hello and welcome to Arthur Ashe Stadium for tonight’s first of two US Open women’s semi-finals between Leylah Annie Fernandez and Aryna Sabalenka. We’ve got a cracker of a match in store as the second-seeded Sabalenka looks to shed her nominal title as the best active player to have never won a major title against the surprise package Fernandez, who has rode a series of upsets into the last four.
The 73th-ranked Fernandez, who toppled defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber and the No 5 seed Elina Svitolina en route to the semi-finals (while celebrating her 19th birthday on Monday), is the only fourth Canadian woman in the Open era to reach the last four at a major, following in the footsteps of Carling Bassett-Seguso (1984 US Open), Eugenie Bouchard (2014 Australian Open; 2014 Roland Garros; 2014 Wimbledon) and Bianca Andreescu (2019 US Open).
Sabalenka, well, she needs no introduction if you’re even a casual observer of the women’s tour. The 23-year-old Belarusian has captured 10 tour titles in her career and climbed to No 2 in the world rankings. And she’s one of the in-form players of the tournament, having been broken only twice in 40 service games since surrendering her serve three times in the opening set and half of her first-round match with Nina Stojanovic. She has won an impressive 81% of her first-serve points at Flushing Meadows, while her 29 aces have taken her season total past 300.
It’s a gray, temperate 71F (22F) evening in Queens with the afternoon rains having moved on for the night (we hope). The players should be on court for their warm-up in a half hour.
Bryan will be here shortly, in the meantime here’s Shireen Ahmed on Canada’s recent tennis success:
A few months ago, Leylah Annie Fernandez was far from a household name in Canada. But after a series of stunning performances at the US Open, she is the toast of the town – french toast with extra maple syrup, to be precise.
The 19-year-old from Quebec celebrated her birthday just days ago and she joins her fellow Montrealer, 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime, in the semi-finals of the US Open. The pair play the men’s and women’s world No 2s in their respective semi-finals: Auger-Aliassime against Daniil Medvedev on Friday night while Fernandez faces Aryna Sabalenka under the Arthur Ashe lights on Thursday.
It’s a fine era for Canadian tennis. Since Wimbledon 2014, Canada has had six different grand slam semi-finalists – Auger-Aliassime, Fernandez, Bianca Andreescu, Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov. What’s more Auger-Aliassime is the first Canadian male to reach the semi-finals in US Open history.
The rise is no fluke. Canada, despite being famous for winter sports, has invested heavily in tennis and the results are starting to become apparent. Even more encouraging, the players represent the country’s diversity – Bouchard is French Canadian, Raonic was born in what is now Montenegro, Andreescu’s parents emigrated from Romania while Shapovalov’s mother is Ukrainian Jewish and his father is a Russian Orthodox Christian. Of this year’s semi-finalists, Fernandez is of Ecuadorian and Filipino descent while Auger-Aliassime’s father was born in Togo.
Read the full article below: