When Leila Fernandez was excluded from Canada’s youth tennis development program, her father, Jorge, a former Ecuadorean soccer player, became her coach in a sport he knew nothing of.
What Jorge Fernandez knew how to be a professional athlete and instilled in his daughter mental strength, patience, focus and confidence, the same traits she had learned the hard way on the soccer fields.
The results have made his daughter, who turned 19 on Monday, a formidable force at the current US Open.
In the third round, he knocked out four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka, and also in the second round, former top seed Angelique Kerber to become one of the top eight Grand Slams for the first time.
“Having him as my coach, and teaching me the simple truth of competing in the sport, definitely affected my game and my mentality,” Fernandez said of her father.
“I’ve been working hard, training very well. My father, my coach, says, ‘Be patient, trust your game, it will show in the games.’ Global Ranking.
Fernandez, who won her first WTA title in March in Monterrey, will face Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina on Tuesday in the quarter-finals.
Born to a Canadian mother of Filipino descent, the left-footed tennis player is also led by professional coach Roman Derder. His father is at home, but he still sends plans for games.
“She’s at home with my little sister. She would call me every day, telling me what to do, so it was great,” Laila explained. “He just tells me what to do the day before (the match) and then he trusts me and my game to execute as best he can.”
Fernandes has confidence built on years of work, from running when he takes a lot of misses to honing his skills and strengthening himself for the challenges he faces now.
“Since I was young, I knew I could hit anyone in front of me,” he said. “Even playing different sports, I was always competitive, saying I would win, that I would beat my father in football, even though that was kind of impossible. I always had that mentality. I always tried to use that in every game I was involved in” .
– ‘I had to pinch myself’ –
Fernandez has her mom and a fitness trainer in her chest who encourages her and has become a favorite of Arthur Ashe Hall audiences.
“Their encouragement for me in every moment helped me a lot,” she says. “In those difficult moments when I’m depressed, thanks to their positivity, I can forget the mistake I just made.”
“Keep fighting, keep moving. Just enjoy the court and trust the game. Having fun on the court, I think that’s the key to anyone’s success,” he says.
Despite her self-confidence, energy and infectious vitality, Fernandez still doesn’t quite believe she’s still alive at this point in the US Open after facing two former world number one and winning a set against them.
“I had to push myself a little to see what really happened,” he admits. “I will enjoy it 100% and tomorrow will be a new day.”