Canadian teenager Fernandez battles past No.2 Sabalenka, enters US Open final

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New York, Sep 10 (IANS) Canadian 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez collected her third top-5 win of the week, overcoming No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 to storm into the US Open final here on Friday (IST).

Fernandez, ranked world No.73, battled past the Belarusian at the Arthur Ashe Stadium after saving a set point in the first set before taking it in the tiebreak.

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The Canadian teen continued her giant-killing run with the 2-hour and 20-minute victory and has now beaten four seeds in a row to make it into her maiden major final. Fernandez, who turned 19 on September 6, is now the second Canadian teenager in the last three years to make it into the US Open final, joining 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu, who was also 19 when she lifted the trophy.

Fernandez came into the US Open with mixed results of and her close encounters over former top-20 players Ana Konjuh of Croatia and Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in the opening two rounds in New York were her first back-to-back wins since she claimed her first WTA singles title in Monterrey in March.

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But she struck form here with top-5 wins over world No.3 and defending champion Naomi Osaka of Japan in the third round and world No.5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the quarterfinals. She also had a fourth-round win against No.16 seed, former World No.1, and former US Open champion Angelique Kerber of Germany.

By adding world No.2 Sabalenka to her list of opponents she beat, Fernandez becomes the youngest player to overcome three top-5 players at a Grand Slam event since Serena Williams accomplished the feat during her title run at the 1999 US Open.

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Against Sabalenka, Fernandez was sturdy in the face of stiff competition, saving seven of the 11 break points she faced to limit her amount of dropped service games to four — matching Sabalenka’s total.

The power-hitting game of Sabalenka helped the Belarusian lead in winners by 45 to 26, but the speed and precision of Fernandez extended rallies past their breaking point, and Sabalenka finished the day with 52 unforced errors. By contrast, Fernandez had fewer unforced errors than winners, with 23.

It was Sabalenka who dominated early proceedings, using strong serves and forehands to win 12 of the first 14 points and lead 3-0. But Fernandez used deep returns to check Sabalenka’s service, which had been nearly flawless here, at 4-2. Sabalenka fired a double fault on the third break point of that game to drop serve.

–IANS

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