Canadian teen Leylah Fernandez, ranked 73rd in the world, knew that she had the ability to upset defending champion Naomi Osaka and she did just that on Arthur Ashe Stadium in the third round of the US Open, 5-7 7-6(2) 6-4.
We were aware that the upset was looming here. Fernandez is a tricky lefty and Osaka has struggled against left-handers lately, having also lost her last two matches to them — to Marketa Vondrousova and Jil Teichmann on hard courts.
Moreover, Osaka is lacking match play, as she withdrew from Roland Garros early, then skipped Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, while even this week in New York she received one walkover. The fact that Osaka stepped on court with a 16-match winning streak at Grand Slams didn’t mean much in those circumstances.
Another factor is that Fernandez is not intimidated by big stages and can be a tough competitor on a good day. Even though she had never been past the second round of a Grand Slam before this year’s US Open, the Canadian was confident in her abilities.
Osaka is still not at a good place. After the loss, the four-time major champion said that she would step away from tennis for an indefinite period:
Naomi Osaka said she is going to take a break from playing tennis “for a while.” pic.twitter.com/xNAO4ZBJyU
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) September 4, 2021
Fernandez will be playing her next match a day before her 19th birthday. Her opponent will be another former US Open champion, 16th-seeded Angelique Kerber.