First-set tiebreaker: *Fernandez 0-2 Sabalenka (*denotes next server)
Sabalenka, serving to star, opens with a forehand winner early in the point. And then Sabalenka draws first blood by winning the first point on Fernadez’s serve with a forehand winner for 2-0.
First set: Fernandez 6-6 Sabalenka
Fernandez serves her way to 30-love, but follows with an unforced forehand error then flinches at the end of a 12-shot rally for 30-all. Then Fernandez makes another unforced, this one off the backhand, to go 30-40 and set point down. Huge moment. Fault, second serve. And Sabalenka squanders the opportunity, netting a forehand early in the rally for deuce. Fernandez then pounds a forehand winner into the corner, but Sabalenka pushes it back to deuce after coming forward in a well-constructed point. From there Fernandez rattles off two quick points to hold and force a first-set tie-break.
First set: *Fernandez 5-6 Sabalenka (*denotes next server)
Sabalenka opens with a 102mph serve that Fernandez can’t get back into play, but then overcooks a forehand for 15-all, drawing a fist pump from Fernandez. A drop-shot winner by Sabalenka makes it 30-15 but another unforced error by Sabalenka gets it to 30-all and another pressure point. But Sabalenka serves it out comfortably from there. Fernandez to serve to force a first-set tiebreaker after the changeover.
First set: Fernandez 5-5 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server)
The late-arriving Ashe crowd has really filled this place up during the last changeover and there’s a rollocking atmosphere (maybe a little too loud!) as Fernandez steps up for this crucial service game. The Canadian races out to 30-love with an unreturnable serve followed by a backhand winner, then mixes in an unforced error off the backhand for 30-15. She follows with a backhand winner, then an unforced error after missing a forehand down the line. 40-30. Big point. And Fernandez answers the call with a 104mph service winner out wide to hold.
First set: *Fernandez 4-5 Sabalenka (*denotes next server)
Fernandez goes ahead love-15 on Sabalenka’s serve and chants of “Let’s go Ley-lah!” ring through the stadium after the point. Sabalenka hits a 108mph service winner for 15-all but makes another unforced error off the forehand for 15-30. Huge point. And Sabalenka comes through with a backhand winner, a 117mph ace down the middle, then a backhand winner into the corner to hold. Fernandez will serve to stay in the first set after the change of ends.
First set: Fernandez 4-4 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server)
A wobbly service game for Fernandez, who falls behind love-15, 15-30, then 30-40 and break point down. But the Canadian saves it for deuce with an angled forehand Sabalenka can’t handle, then serves out the game comfortably for 4-all.
Fernandez breaks in seventh game of first set!
First set: *Fernandez 3-4 Sabalenka (*denotes next server)
Sabalenka finally shows a bit of vulnerability on her serve, opening with her first double fault of the night followed by an error early in the point for love-30. A big buzz in the stadium. Sabalenka then makes an unforced error off her forehand for love-40, giving Fernandez three break-point opportunities. Sabalenka saves the first with a big second serve Fernandez can’t handle, then the second with a forehand winner to cap a grueling 13-stroke exchange. But Sabalenka then double-faults again to gift Fernandez the break. Back on serve in the first!
First set: Fernandez 2-4 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server)
Fernandez holds at love for the first time, opening with her first and second aces, followed by a 100mph service winner out wide then a 95mph second-serve ace.
First set: *Fernandez 1-4 Sabalenka (*denotes next server)
Another imperious service game from Sabalenka, who caps another love hold with a 117mph ace. The world No 2 is serving lights out: she’s gotten 12 of 13 first serves in (92%) and won 11 of 12 first-serve points (92%).
First set: Fernandez 1-3 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server)
Fernandez caps a straightforward hold of serve with a crisp forehand winner early in the point to get on the board, drawing big cheers from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.
First set: *Fernandez 0-3 Sabalenka (*denotes next server)
Sabalenka backs up the break in style, holding at love for 3-love in the opener after only eight minutes. What a start for the No 2 seed: nine winners and zero unforced errors.
Sabalenka breaks in second game of first set!
First set: Fernandez 0-2 Sabalenka* (*denotes next server)
Lots of crowd support for Fernandez as she steps to the line for her opening service game. Sabalenka opens with a thudding backhand winner on Fernandez serve for love-15, then Fernandez makes an unforced error off her backhand for love-30. Already a pressure point for the young Canadian. Fernandez gets it to 15-30 with a big second serve, but then goes double break point down at 15-40 after Sabalenka hits a gorgeous forehand winner into the corner to cap a muscular 24-shot baseline rally. And Sabalenka needs only one of them, hitting her fifth winner (already!) to nail down the break.
First set: *Fernandez 0-1 Sabalenka (*denotes next server)
Sabalenka won the toss and elected to serve first. She opens it with a 106mph ace out wide. She follows with a 114mph unreturnable and a 108mph service winner out wide for 40-love. Fernandez gets on the board with a forehand passing winner (aided by a netcord that undercut Sabalenka early in the point), but Sabalenka follows with a 106mph unreturnable to the body. Emphatic opening service game for Sabalenka.
Fun fact about Fernandez before we get going. She is the youngest player to beat two players ranked in the WTA’s top five at the same major since Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open, when the American won the first of her 23 grand slam titles.
The players have emerged from the tunnel for tonight’s first semi-final. A bigger pop for the teenager Fernandez, suggesting that she will have the crowd in her corner tonight. They’re going through their warmup and we should be under way in the next few minutes.
No player has won more on tour this season than Sabalenka, whose 43 victories on the year include title runs at Abu Dhabi and Madrid. Recent history suggests things could go well for her tonight: she’s won 18 of 20 career matches against players ranked outside the top 50 since the start of 2021 with the lone defeats coming against No 94 Kaia Kanepi (Gippsland Trophy) and No 75 Camila Giorgi (Eastbourne).
Hello and welcome to Arthur Ashe Stadium for tonight’s first of two US Open women’s semi-finals between Leylah Annie Fernandez and Aryna Sabalenka. We’ve got a cracker of a match in store as the second-seeded Sabalenka looks to shed her nominal title as the best active player to have never won a major title against the surprise package Fernandez, who has rode a series of upsets into the last four.
The 73th-ranked Fernandez, who toppled defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber and the No 5 seed Elina Svitolina en route to the semi-finals (while celebrating her 19th birthday on Monday), is the only fourth Canadian woman in the Open era to reach the last four at a major, following in the footsteps of Carling Bassett-Seguso (1984 US Open), Eugenie Bouchard (2014 Australian Open; 2014 Roland Garros; 2014 Wimbledon) and Bianca Andreescu (2019 US Open).
Sabalenka, well, she needs no introduction if you’re even a casual observer of the women’s tour. The 23-year-old Belarusian has captured 10 tour titles in her career and climbed to No 2 in the world rankings. And she’s one of the in-form players of the tournament, having been broken only twice in 40 service games since surrendering her serve three times in the opening set and half of her first-round match with Nina Stojanovic. She has won an impressive 81% of her first-serve points at Flushing Meadows, while her 29 aces have taken her season total past 300.
It’s a gray, temperate 71F (22F) evening in Queens with the afternoon rains having moved on for the night (we hope). The players should be on court for their warm-up in a half hour.
Bryan will be here shortly, in the meantime here’s Shireen Ahmed on Canada’s recent tennis success:
A few months ago, Leylah Annie Fernandez was far from a household name in Canada. But after a series of stunning performances at the US Open, she is the toast of the town – french toast with extra maple syrup, to be precise.
The 19-year-old from Quebec celebrated her birthday just days ago and she joins her fellow Montrealer, 21-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime, in the semi-finals of the US Open. The pair play the men’s and women’s world No 2s in their respective semi-finals: Auger-Aliassime against Daniil Medvedev on Friday night while Fernandez faces Aryna Sabalenka under the Arthur Ashe lights on Thursday.
It’s a fine era for Canadian tennis. Since Wimbledon 2014, Canada has had six different grand slam semi-finalists – Auger-Aliassime, Fernandez, Bianca Andreescu, Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov. What’s more Auger-Aliassime is the first Canadian male to reach the semi-finals in US Open history.
The rise is no fluke. Canada, despite being famous for winter sports, has invested heavily in tennis and the results are starting to become apparent. Even more encouraging, the players represent the country’s diversity – Bouchard is French Canadian, Raonic was born in what is now Montenegro, Andreescu’s parents emigrated from Romania while Shapovalov’s mother is Ukrainian Jewish and his father is a Russian Orthodox Christian. Of this year’s semi-finalists, Fernandez is of Ecuadorian and Filipino descent while Auger-Aliassime’s father was born in Togo.
Read the full article below: