Canada's Leylah Fernandez hits a return to Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka during their 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women's semifinal match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on Sept 9, 2021. (TIMOTHY A CLARY / AFP)
NEW YORK - Leylah Fernandez's storybook US Open continued with yet another upset on Thursday as the Canadian teenager shocked second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(3) 4-6 6-4 to reach her first Grand Slam final.
Leylah Fernandez has stated she could beat anyone and backed up the bravado with victories over four-time Grand Slam winner
Rankings-wise, the second seeded Belarusian represented the toughest challenge yet for the 19-year-old lefhander but with a string of seeded victims behind her Fernandez had already shown she could not be intimidated.
The Canadian has stated she could beat anyone and backed up the bravado with victories over four-time Grand Slam winner and defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round, three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber in the fourth and fifth seed Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals.
One of the game's big servers Sabalenka threw everything she had at Fernandez, including 10 aces, but had no better luck against the youngster, who played with veteran poise throughout the three-set thriller.
"Impossible is nothing," said Fernandez. "Like my dad would tell me all the time, there's no limit to my potential, to what I can do.
"Every day we just got to keep working hard, we got to keep going for it.
"There's no limit to what I can do."
Ranked number 73 in the world at the start of the US Open, getting to the Grand Slam final would have been considered Mission Impossible by many, but on Saturday Fernandez will take on British qualifier 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, who has also beaten huge odds to set up an all-teenage final.
It will mark the eighth time a Grand Slam final in the Open era will be contested by two teenagers, and the first since the 1999 US Open between Serena Williams and Martina Hingis.
When asked how she pulled off another upset, Fernandez said: "I have no idea.
"I just wanted to be in the finals, I really wanted it."
Sabalenka, bidding for her first Grand Slam final, came out all guns blazing, blasting away from baseline and racing to 3-0 lead in just eight minutes.
But just as it looked as if Fernandez might be blown off the court she steadied herself and reproduced the kind of fearless shot-making that has made her the darling of Flushing Meadows.
The Canadian broke back at 4-3 and went on to dominate the tiebreak 7-3.
A fired up Sabalenka broke Fernandez to open the second set but the Canadian broke back to level at 2-2, driving a clenched fist into the air that has become her trademark salute.
The Belarusian earned a decisive break to nose in front 5-4 and confidently held serve to send the match to a decider.
But in a tense third set it was Sabalenka who cracked.
Serving at 5-4 to stay in match she double faulted twice then sent a return long to gift victory to Fernandez, who dropped to the court and covered her face as the crowd roared.
"This is what we call pressure," summed up Sabalenka. "I had a lot of opportunities and I didn't use it.
"Well, this is life. If you're not using your opportunities, someone else will use it.
"This is what happened today."
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