SC Express: Leylah Fernandez's Cinderella run
Early in Thursday’s women’s semifinal, it looked like Leylah Annie Fernandez’s magical run at the US Open might come to an end. The 19-year-old from Laval, Que., struggled out of the gate against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and found herself down 4-1 in the first set.
But like she’s been doing all tournament, Fernandez found a way.
If wins over Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina weren’t already enough, Fernandez outdueled the heavily favoured Sabalenka in three sets to book her spot in the US Open final against fellow teenager Emma Raducanu, who took down 17th-seeded Maria Sakkari in the other semis showdown. Needless to say, it’s Fernandez’s first Grand Slam final appearance after entering the tournament as the No. 73-ranked player in the WTA.
Despite fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime coming up short on the men’s side in his semifinal matchup against Daniil Medvedev, it’s still been one of the more thrilling weeks in the history of Canadian tennis.
Fernandez is just the fourth Canadian singles player ever on the men’s or women’s side to make a Grand Slam final and she’ll look to join Bianca Andreescu and become just the second Canadian to capture a major singles victory.
With Fernandez set to take her run at history on Saturday, here is a look back at the three other times Canadian singles player have appeared in a grand slam final.
Eugenie Bouchard, 2014 Wimbledon
Eugenie Bouchard was one of the WTA’s rising stars heading into Wimbledon in 2014. Named Newcomer of the Year in 2013 and already with her own army of fans, the 20-year-old Bouchard had reached the semifinals in both the Australian Open and the French Open earlier that year and was ranked 13th in the All England Club draw.
The Montreal native breezed through her first six opponents without dropping a set, including quarter-final and semifinal victories over No. 9 Angelique Kerber and No. 3 Simona Halep. It wasn’t just uncharted waters for Bouchard but all of Canadian tennis as she became the first men’s or women’s singles player from Canada to reach a grand slam final in the open era.
Standing in her way was 2011 Wimbledon champ and No. 6 seed Petra Kvitova, who, like Bouchard, had not dropped a set in her first six matches. Unfortunately for Bouchard, this held true in the final.
Whether Bouchard ran out of gas or Kvitova was simply too much – or some combination of both – the 24-year-old from the Czech Republic dominated to take the title 6-3, 6-0 in just 55 minutes.
“It was really tough for me today but I’m proud of how I’ve played for these two weeks,” Bouchard said.
"I feel like it's a step in the right direction. I'm not sure I deserve all your love today, but I certainly appreciate it. "
Milos Raonic, 2016 Wimbledon
Unlike Bouchard, Milos Raonic had a much bumpier road to his first and only Wimbledon final in 2016.
The 25-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., found himself down two sets to Belgium’s David Goffin in the fourth round before storming back to win in five. A quarter-final win over Sam Querrey set Raonic up with a head-to-head against seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, who was coming off 10 straight semifinal wins at the All England Club.
Federer looked to be in control taking two of the first three sets and appeared headed toward a fourth-set tiebreak before losing a 40-0 lead with two double faults in a row. Openings like that against all-time greats are rare and Raonic took advantage, storming back to win the fourth set 7-5 and take the decider 6-3.
"Think about what that young man has accomplished. Roger Federer was 10-0 in Wimbledon semifinals before this. Federer is an amazing champion, and this was amazing from Raonic,” three-time Wimbledon winner John McEnroe said.
Raonic’s task in the final against No. 2 seed Andy Murray was no easier.
Raonic came into the match with 137 aces in the tournament, but Murray made the big-serving Canadian go without one in the first five games of the final. Despite pushing things to a tiebreak twice, Murray dispatched Raonic 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 in straight sets to win his third Grand Slam and first at Wimbledon since 2016.
"That's pretty much the thing you're fighting the most, is to try to find a level that's good enough," Raonic said. "I was keeping up with him but when it counted, I wasn't able to get on top."
Bianca Andreescu, US Open 2019
When she entered the US Open ranked 15th in the world, Bianca Andreescu was already on everyone’s radar with wins at Indian Wells and in Toronto on home soil earlier in the year.
She made quick work reaching the Round of 16, picking up straight-set victories in each of the first three rounds. The Mississauga, Ont., native was pushed to three sets by Taylor Townsend in the fourth round and by Elise Mertens in the quarters but survived those scares. It was then a two-set victory in the semifinals over Belinda Bencic set up a rematch against Serena Williams with a Grand Slam title on the line.
It was a rematch because the pair had met in the final of the Rogers Cup less than a month earlier when the 23-time Grand Slam champion was forced to retire with a back injury, giving Andreescu the win.
Appearing fully recovered, Williams had dropped just one set on her run to the final and was staring down her seventh US Open title.
On the biggest stage of her career, Andreescu took the first set 6-3 over Williams in convincing fashion. Before long, she held a 5-1 lead in the second set and Canada could taste the country’s first-ever Grand Slam singles title.
Williams, though, isn’t one to roll over. Serena stormed back to erase the deficit and tie the second set at 5-5. Andreescu kept her nerve and held serve, leaving Serena to have to force a tiebreak. On her third championship point of the match with a 40-30 lead, Andreescu returned Williams’ serve by her, securing her place – and Canada’s – in history.
"This year has been a dream come true and being able to play on this stage against Serena, a true legend in this sport, is amazing," Andreescu said.