PARIS — It is a brand new season and a special floor, however Leylah Fernandez, nonetheless tenacious and nonetheless an adolescent, is again in the deep finish of one other Grand Slam event.
She wanted all of her resourcefulness and upbeat vitality on this unseasonably chilly Sunday afternoon at Roland Garros.
Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American seeded twenty seventh, is considered one of the greatest pure hitters in girls’s tennis, able to producing phenomenal tempo with a seemingly casual swipe of the racket.
She has a brand new mannequin this season, which has helped her management her simple energy. The Seventeenth-seeded Fernandez spent almost two hours digging in the corners and lunging for returns, however in the finish, the counterpuncher beat the puncher 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 as Fernandez’s quickness, consistency and yes-I-can positivity made the small distinction as she superior to her first French Open quarterfinal.
“She’s very offensive,” Fernandez mentioned. “I just tried to be as offensive as her and just take my chances, and the balls went in today.”
That is not any coincidence at this stage. Fernandez, a 19-year-old Canadian, appears to be like like a big-stage participant and was a part of maybe the greatest shock in tennis historical past when she and one other unseeded teenager, Emma Raducanu, superior to the U.S. Open remaining final year with Raducanu, a qualifier, profitable in straight units.
The remainder of the girls’s area has definitely taken discover.
“I’m thinking, especially if the U.S. Open taught us anything, that anybody can win on any day,” mentioned Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American who’s seeded 18th at Roland Garros.
Gauff performed considered one of the higher matches on Sunday, defeating No. 31 seed Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-0 to return to the French Open quarterfinals, the place she lost final year to the eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova in an error-strewn match that Gauff ranks as considered one of the greatest disappointments of her quick career due to the manner she managed the most vital factors.
“I think that was the biggest lesson I learned last year in my quarterfinal,” Gauff mentioned. “I had a couple of set points, and I think I freaked out when some of those points didn’t go my way. Today I didn’t freak out.”
Instead, she gathered power and confirmed elevated persistence on the clay, usually partaking in lengthy rallies with Mertens earlier than going for winners (or hitting a lunging backhand round the web publish).
Her work on herself and together with her new coach, Diego Moyano, appears to be paying dividends, and Gauff will subsequent face considered one of Moyano’s former pupils, Sloane Stephens, in an all-American, intergenerational duel.
Stephens, 29, is unseeded this year however has lengthy thrived on clay and was a French Open finalist in 2018. On Sunday, she overwhelmed Jil Teichmann 6-2, 6-0. Stephens defeated Gauff 6-4, 6-2 in the second spherical of final year’s U.S. Open once they performed for the first time on tour. But that was hardly the first meeting. Both are based mostly in South Florida, and Stephens attended Gauff’s tenth birthday celebration and practiced with Gauff for the first time when Gauff was 12 and already planning on going through Stephens on a lot greater levels.
“I had a very competitive mind-set since I was a little girl,” Gauff mentioned. “Yes, I looked up to her and all that, but I knew that I was going to be playing against her.”
For those that adopted the dueling Cinderella tales, Fernandez and Raducanu can be perpetually linked, however although each have been seeded right here in Paris, they haven’t been on parallel paths since New York.
Neither has come near taking the common tour by storm. That has been reserved for a participant who is barely barely older: the new No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who at age 20 has gained 31 straight matches and stays a prohibitive favourite at Roland Garros, the place she was a shock teenage champion herself in 2020.
But whereas Raducanu has signed a collection of main endorsement offers and shuffled coaches, she has but to get previous the quarterfinals of a daily tour occasion since the U.S. Open. Fernandez has usually lost early as effectively however she did defend her singles title in Monterrey, Mexico, in March and is now making her greatest run in Paris with a wonderful probability to go farther contemplating that she’s going to face the unseeded Italian Martina Trevisan in a uncommon quarterfinal between left-handers at Roland Garros.
Fernandez mentioned she put an excessive amount of strain on herself to succeed after the U.S. Open remaining.
“I just wanted to be more offensive, more aggressive and improve my game as fast as possible,” she mentioned. “I think I just understood that there is a process, and it’s still a long year, a very long year, and I just need to calm myself down, calm my mind down. And just accept that things are going to be tough, things are going to go sideways in a match, in a practice. And just understand that I’ve got more tools in my toolbox that I can use and just find solutions.”
That final sentence seems like she has been learning the Rafael Nadal phrase guide, and there may be certainly a contact of Nadal in Fernandez on courtroom. She, too, is a speedy lefty with unorthodox method. Nadal has his bolo-whip end on the forehand; Fernandez has excessive grips of her personal and usually hits her two-handed backhand together with her fingers far aside.
There are the intangibles, too: the in-the-moment combativeness; the resolute stroll between factors and the ingrained rituals. Anisimova may need to jot down just a few notes contemplating her lingering tendency to get detrimental. She usually grimaced at her errors on Sunday, mocking her personal photographs and flinging her racket throughout the crimson clay in frustration late in the remaining set to the sound of some scattered boos from stands that have been by no means greater than half full on the fundamental Chatrier Court.
Fernandez appeared like a extra composed and centered presence. Even if her sport was a flickering flame, her dedication was not.
“Every time I step out on the court I still have something to prove,” she mentioned. “I still have that mind-set I’m the underdog. I’m still young. I still have a lot to show to the people, to the public so that they can just enjoy the tennis match.”