Who Is Leylah Fernandez, the Tennis Sensation Who Got a U.S. Open Runner-Up Finish?
"She's got Filipino blood in her. It's so beautiful." To set the record straight, Leylah Fernandez' father, Jorge, sat down with some of the reporters on the eve of the final of the 2021 US Open to recognize his daughter's roots. Recently, the 19-year-old, unseeded and unknown, won the hearts of many tennis fans around the world after a sensational string of victories in the New York City-based Grand Slam.
To earn her spot in the finals, she has beaten defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber, fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina, and World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. Among those cheering their hearts out for Leylah are sports-loving Filipinos, many of whom take pride in the Filipino descent of the young star.
Here's everything you need to know about Leylah Fernandez.
She ended the U.S. Open with a runner-up finish.
While Fernandez didn't get the ending that she wanted, her memorable run to the final at the U.S. Open was an accomplishment. "Today's going to be hard to recuperate but Emma played amazing," she said. "I'm very proud of myself with the way I've played these past two weeks."
She was born in Canada.
Her mother, Irene Exevea, was born in Canada to both Filipino parents. She's been to the Philippines only twice in her life. In a quick interview with Dyan Castillejo, who's covering the Grand Slam live, Irene revealed that Leylah recognizes her Filipino blood. "She adores her culture. She's born in Canada, but her mom's Filipino, she embraces it," she said.
Her maternal grandfather has roots in Ilocos.
Her mom's father hails from Ilocos. And even if Leylah doesn't speak Tagalog, she does call her grandparents with these terms of endearment. In a post-game interview earlier this week, she acknowledged how his grandfather breaks out his cooking skills whenever he visits her home in Canada.
"I don’t know much about the Filipino culture but I do know that my Lolo, he cooks amazing, so when I get back to Canada in Toronto when I visit, he’s gonna make really nice food, especially Filipino dish[es] because I do miss it," she said.
Her father is thankful for her newfound fans in the Philippines.
In the eve of her finals game, her dad and coach, Jorge, revealed to the media he's glad that Leylah has gained fans in the Philippines.
"I truly appreciate the Filipino community backing up Leylah," Jorge said. "She's got Filipino blood in her. It's so beautiful. I'm glad that they've embraced her. I hope that relationship can only grow between her and her community.
She years to explore her roots.
"I can't wait to know more about the culture in the future. Thank you so much, I'm so happy that everyone in the Philippines is cheering for me and supporting me," she said in a post-game interview.
Even if she represents Canada, Leylah acknowledges her Filipino descent as much as the Filipino community takes pride in her feat on the big stage.
As they say, "Blood is thicker than water."