Tennis

Leylah Fernandez, Who Beat Osaka, Leads a Canadian Charge

“Those were difficult years, because they only saw their mother maybe two times a year,” Jorge said. “We finally decided to move to Florida. It’s the Mecca of tennis, and we could have the whole family together again.”

To learn the art of tennis and coaching it, Jorge Fernandez immersed himself in the sport, reading texts and watching videos on the internet. His goal was to cultivate a balance between work and fun to ensure that Leylah never got burned out. He taught his daughter, who is 5 feet 6 inches, to study Justine Henin, who is listed at 5-6¾, because it seemed like an appropriate blueprint for success.

Despite her size, Leylah Fernandez is a potent ball striker. Her father claims that, pound for pound, Leylah is “the best power hitter on the tour,” and she derives confidence from her strength. Even before she took the court against Osaka, she said she knew she could beat the four-time major champion.

“From a very young age, I knew I was able to beat anyone,” she said Friday night, before noting that it was past her bedtime.

When she won the French Open junior title in 2019, Leylah Fernandez asked her father if they could celebrate at McDonald’s. Always diligent about nutrition, and in a city known for its culinary expertise, Fernandez chose the fast food restaurant as a way to splurge. Her father agreed.

“It was just the two of us,” Jorge said. “It was sweet, but at the same time, the whole family should have been there. It’s one of the difficult things of the tennis life, all the travel.”

Jorge Fernandez could not attend his daughter’s victory over Osaka. He was in Florida attending to business. But before she took the court, Leylah called him for the strategic game plan, and he was true to his ethos.

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