Leylah Fernandez made it a night to remember for the 18-year-olds at the US Open as she dumped out defending champion Naomi Osaka.
18-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada dismissed defending champion Naomi Osaka on the very same court, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4, to break through of the US Open Round of 16 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Osaka’s game is clearly not back to its best following her recent absence due to mental health, but she served for the match in the second set, only to suffer a 15-minute capitulation that saw Fernandez fight back to win 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-4.
Leylah Fernandez finished off her win with style. 😎 pic.twitter.com/Cxt2VqJBjw
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 4, 2021
It was the most influential win of the world number 73’s career and one that sets up a fourth-round meeting with 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.
Osaka was playing her first grand slam since pulling out of the French Open and Wimbledon and this defeat will again put the spotlight on her.
She looked in decent state for the majority of the match, stealing the first set with a break at 5-5 and then putting herself in a position to do the same in the second.
But this time Fernandez broke straight back at 5-6 and that is where the match turned on its head as Osaka lost her way over a defining 15-minute period.
The Canadian boosted her level, but Osaka’s radar was off and a splurge of unforced errors saw her lose the second-set tiebreak.
That carried over into the early part of the decisive set as Fernandez immediately broke, with Osaka smashing her racket and later receiving a code violation for hitting the ball into the crowd.
Arriving on Arthur Ashe Stadium after Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz had just seen off men’s third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the teenager followed suit by producing a stunning upset.
Carlos & Leylah 😯
— ATP Tour (@atptour) September 4, 2021
Osaka’s record on hard courts speaks for itself. All seven of her career titles, four of them majors, have come on the surface. Earlier this year, she carried a 23-match hard-court win streak into the Miami Open quarterfinals. Since falling to Coco Gauff at the 2020 Australian Open, she had won 17 straight Grand Slam matches, all on cement. However, the player Bianca Andreescu earlier this week called “the face of hard-court tennis” will surely need some time to process Friday’s loss.
She said during her on-court interview: “I guess I wanted to stay on the court a little bit longer and I wanted to put a show on for everyone here, an hour was just not enough for me on the court.
“From the beginning right before the match, I knew I was able to win.
“I wasn’t focusing on Naomi I was only focusing on myself and what I needed to do.”