Sixteen-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez just gave Canada cause for celebration in the international tennis scene. On June 8, 2019, she became the first Canadian to win the French Open junior singles title at the Roland-Garros clay courts in Paris.
The left-handed Fernandez from Laval, Quebec is the daughter of a Canadian Filipino mother and Ecuadorian father who also coaches Leylah and her sister Bianca Jolie full-time. Younger sister Bianca Jolie recently made her professional tournament debut in Ecuador.
Fernandez beat No. 8 seed Emma Navarro of the U.S. in a 6-2, 6-3 victory to claim the No. 1 spot.
Aside from being the first Canadian to ever win the French Open juniors, Fernandez holds the distinction of winning a junior Grand Slam singles title since Felix Auger-Aliassime won the 2016 junior U.S. Open in 2016. She is also the first Canadian female to win a title since Eugenie Bouchard won junior Wimbledon in 2012.
The win over Navarro was built on sheer perseverance. Her journey to the finals was marked with cold, wet and muddy conditions on the difficult clay courts, a number of earlier losses and exhausted, even playing a total of three matches in one day on June 6.
In an interview with Sportsnet Canada, Fernandez recalled the day’s event: “I thought, ‘OK, I’m a little tired’ But I’m sure my opponent is tired too.” She adds, “I just thought of the physical work, the hours I’ve put in with my father, the hours I cried because I didn’t want to run anymore. I took all that experience…so I could get the momentum back.”
Fernandez is scheduled to play three professional events in Canada this July: the $25,000 International Tennis Federation in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and Gatineau, Quebec, and an $80,000 tournament in Granby, Quebec.