US Open: Leylah Fernandez, teen prodigy, downs Elina Svitolina

Written by Staff Writer

Eighteen-year-old Leylah Fernandez has knocked out world number two Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals of the US Open to book a spot in the semi-finals.

The American beat the Ukrainian 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 and will now play fellow teenager Aryna Sabalenka, who also beat Svitolina, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in the semifinals.

Fernandez, from Virginia Beach, Virginia, was ranked as high as 74 in the world in 2016 but has tumbled to 788th after struggling with health problems, including an asthma attack, which led to her reaching the brink of retirement.

“It’s been the toughest seven years of my life, there’s been a lot of ups and downs,” she told CNN after Saturday’s match.

“I never thought I would be here. But at the end of the day you just have to keep fighting. I’m just proud to come here and be in this situation.”

This is not Fernandez’s first meeting with Svitolina. The American beat the 23-year-old in the second round of Wimbledon in 2016.

Since then, she has battled health problems, including an asthma attack, which forced her to pull out of the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China last month.

“I’ve never beaten her. It was really weird,” she said. “I knew she was a strong player. She’s a world-class player. I couldn’t really play my best tennis today, but I was grateful to make it to the next round.”

The daughter of a mechanic from Venezuela, 26-year-old Sabalenka is aiming to become the first South African woman to win a grand slam singles title since Moya in 1997.

This is also the first time both women have made the US Open semifinals.

Sabalenka won her first WTA title in Miami in April, before reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon earlier this month, where she fell to Garbine Muguruza.

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