The last United States Open was quite a springboard for Leylah Annie Fernandez and Félix Auger-Aliassime.
Fernandez, just 19, reached the final, where she lost to Britain’s Emma Raducanu. This first appearance in a final of a major tournament propelled her 45 places in the WTA standings, up to 28e place.
“I worked so hard and made huge sacrifices to get to where I am today,” said the Montrealer from the warehouses of Flair Airlines, a low-cost carrier of which she became co-ambassador along with Auger-Aliassime.
“It’s an incredible journey,” she continued. To see all the sacrifices I made, the difficulties we had traveling, like in Israel, where we didn’t know if we were going to be able to book a hotel. […] I almost cried during the press conference [à New York] when I heard my father’s interview. These are memories I wanted to forget; it motivates me even more to continue to give back to my family. “
If the jump was less spectacular for Auger-Aliassime, who gained four places to become the highest ranked Canadian in 11e ATP level, the last fortnight allows him to get closer to the ambitious goals he set himself at the start of the year.
“After the last Grand Slam of the year, where I collected a lot of points with a semi-final, I put myself in a good position for the Masters at the end of the year and to finish the season in the top 10. […] It is both very motivating and very positive. To be 11e now, with the few months left of the year, it’s a good position. I had these big ambitions: I’m at the door, but there is still a lot to do. “
For the 21-year-old tennis player, this semi-final, where he lost to eventual tournament winner Daniil Medvedev, will help boost his confidence.
“It’s a good stage for my confidence, in a season where there were very good performances, but also lows. To have been able to end the summer this way in New York is very good. I would say I feel closer to my goal of winning a Grand Slam tournament and being among the best in the world. “
He wouldn’t have said the same after coming out of the Tokyo Olympics, where he was knocked out in the first round.
“I had to bounce back. I did not hide that it was a big disappointment in Tokyo and the following weeks too, he said. Not so much by my game, but by the fatigue felt: the year is long. It was an apprenticeship to play at the Olympics after a long trip. Then we had to return to America and play other tournaments. It was all new to me: in the next few years, I will be able to handle it better. I felt tired, whether in Tokyo or Washington on the way back. I had to refocus to end the summer well. It is true that these defeats motivated me for the continuation of things. But I do not regret anything: I had a magnificent experience at the Games. I learned a lot there. “
Dad still in the line
If she admits to experiencing a great whirlwind of emotions, Fernandez intends not to change anything in her activities or those around her during the coming weeks.
Thus, she will not change the schedule established before her superb performance at Flushing Meadows. Above all, she does not intend to change coach, her father Jorge.
“My father will always be there,” she assured. He is always open to adding new members to the team. I am very happy to have him as a father and as a coach. He’s been there from the very beginning, he knows when it’s time to take a break or bring in a new person to the team. I trust his decisions 100%. This is the best way to judge success on the whole. He will be part of the team for a very long time. “