French Open: Leylah Fernandez impresses Thierry Henry as Canadian teenager surges to Paris quarters

By Sports Desk May 29, 2022

Leylah Fernandez is thriving again thanks to her "underdog" spirit as last year's US Open runner-up mounts a Roland Garros challenge.

The Canadian produced an against-the-odds run in New York, before losing out to fellow shock finalist Emma Raducanu, and it might just be happening again at the French Open for the 19-year-old.

A fluent French speaker, she has the home crowd behind her and was a popular 6-3 4-6 6-3 winner against American Amanda Anisimova on Sunday, reaching the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time.

Fernandez has an Ecuadorian-born father, Jorge, who serves as her coach, and the teenager said she hoped a little "Latino fire" could propel her deeper into the tournament.

"Every time I step out on the court I still have something to prove," said Fernandez. "I still have that mindset 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. That's ultimately my goal, and that's why I want to do well in matches."

Fernandez, a big football fan, was delighted to show Thierry Henry exactly what she can do as the former Arsenal, Barcelona and France striker watched on from the stands.

"To see him do a standing ovation for our match is just an incredible feeling and hopefully I can reproduce that level again," Fernandez said.

"I just love that players are bringing their own personality and their own culture on court."

Referring to her next opponent, Martina Trevisan, Fernandez said: "She's Italian, so they are very passionate about their sports.

"I think it just brings another good entertainment for the fans. That's what I try to do sometimes too, to bring my dad's Latino culture on court too, bring that fire."

Trevisan, who toppled Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the fourth round, has become just the third Italian women to reach two or more singles quarter-finals at Roland Garros in the Open Era, after Sara Errani (four) and 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone (three).

World number 18 Fernandez is the highest-ranked player remaining in the bottom half of the draw, but she is cautious about acknowledging the opportunity opening up for her.

"Honestly, there is no opening," she said. "All the players that are still present at this stage of the tournament are excellent players.

"They work very hard. They have this winning mentality. So there is absolutely no opening. It will be a difficult match. Each match will be difficult."

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