PARIS — It’s a latest season and a special surface, but Leylah Fernandez, still tenacious and still a youngster, is back within the deep end of one other Grand Slam tournament.
She needed all of her resourcefulness and upbeat energy on this unseasonably chilly Sunday afternoon at Roland Garros.
Amanda Anisimova, a 20-year-old American seeded twenty seventh, is one in all the largest pure hitters in women’s tennis, able to generating phenomenal pace with a seemingly casual swipe of the racket.
She has a latest model this season, which has helped her control her easy power. The Seventeenth-seeded Fernandez spent nearly two hours digging within the corners and lunging for returns, but in the long run, the counterpuncher beat the puncher 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 as Fernandez’s quickness, consistency and yes-I-can positivity made the small difference as she advanced to her first French Open quarterfinal.
“She’s very offensive,” Fernandez said. “I just tried to be as offensive as her and just take my possibilities, and the balls went in today.”
That is not any coincidence at this stage. Fernandez, a 19-year-old Canadian, looks like a big-stage player and was a part of perhaps the largest surprise in tennis history when she and one other unseeded teenager, Emma Raducanu, advanced to the U.S. Open final last yr with Raducanu, a qualifier, winning in straight sets.
The remaining of the ladies’s field has actually taken notice.
“I’m pondering, especially if the U.S. Open taught us anything, that anybody can win on any day,” said Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American who’s seeded 18th at Roland Garros.
Gauff played one in all the higher matches on Sunday, defeating No. 31 seed Elise Mertens 6-4, 6-0 to return to the French Open quarterfinals, where she lost last yr to the eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova in an error-strewn match that Gauff ranks as one in all the largest disappointments of her short profession due to the best way she managed probably the most significant points.
“I feel that was the largest lesson I learned last yr in my quarterfinal,” Gauff said. “I had a few set points, and I feel I freaked out when a few of those points didn’t go my way. Today I didn’t freak out.”
As an alternative, she gathered strength and showed increased patience on the clay, often engaging in long rallies with Mertens before going for winners (or hitting a lunging backhand around the online post).
Her work on herself and together with her latest coach, Diego Moyano, appears to be paying dividends, and Gauff will next face one in all Moyano’s former pupils, Sloane Stephens, in an all-American, intergenerational duel.
Stephens, 29, is unseeded this yr but has long 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 within the second round of last yr’s U.S. Open after they played for the primary time on tour. But that was hardly the primary meeting. Each are based in South Florida, and Stephens attended Gauff’s tenth party and practiced with Gauff for the primary time when Gauff was 12 and already planning on facing Stephens on much greater stages.
“I had a really competitive mind-set since I used to be a bit of girl,” Gauff said. “Yes, I looked as much as her and all that, but I knew that I used to be going to be playing against her.”
For many who followed the dueling Cinderella stories, Fernandez and Raducanu will probably be ceaselessly linked, but though each were seeded here in Paris, they’ve not been on parallel paths since Recent York.
Neither has come near taking the regular tour by storm. That has been reserved for a player who is just barely older: the brand new No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who at age 20 has won 31 straight matches and stays a prohibitive favorite at Roland Garros, where she was a surprise teenage champion herself in 2020.
But while Raducanu has signed a series of major endorsement deals and shuffled coaches, she has yet to get past the quarterfinals of an everyday tour event because the U.S. Open. Fernandez has often lost early as well but she did defend her singles title in Monterrey, Mexico, in March and is now making her best run in Paris with a superb probability to go further considering that she is going to face the unseeded Italian Martina Trevisan in a rare quarterfinal between left-handers at Roland Garros.
Fernandez said she put an excessive amount of pressure on herself to succeed after the U.S. Open final.
“I just desired to be more offensive, more aggressive and improve my game as fast as possible,” she said. “I feel I just understood that there’s a process, and it’s still a protracted yr, a really long yr, and I just must 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 last sentence feels like she has been studying the Rafael Nadal phrase book, and there’s indeed a touch of Nadal in Fernandez on court. She, too, is a speedy lefty with unorthodox technique. Nadal has his bolo-whip finish on the forehand; Fernandez has extreme grips of her own and infrequently hits her two-handed backhand together with her hands far apart.
There are the intangibles, too: the in-the-moment combativeness; the resolute walk between points and the ingrained rituals. Anisimova might need to jot down a number of notes considering her lingering tendency to get negative. She often grimaced at her errors on Sunday, mocking her own shots and flinging her racket across the red clay in frustration late in the ultimate set to the sound of a number of scattered boos from stands that were never greater than half full on the major Chatrier Court.
Fernandez appeared like a more composed and focused presence. Even when her game was a flickering flame, her commitment was not.
“Each time I step out on the court I still have something to prove,” she said. “I still have that mind-set I’m the underdog. I’m still young. I still have rather a lot to point out to the people, to the general public in order that they’ll just benefit from the tennis match.”