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Leylah Fernandez targeting top 10 in 2022

  • Matt Trollope

Last year’s US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez is hoping to go even higher in 2022 after commencing her season strongly at the Adelaide International.

The 20-year-old Canadian beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-4 on Monday evening to set up a second-round blockbuster with world No.9 Iga Swiatek, who got her Adelaide title defence off to the perfect start on Tuesday with a straight-sets win over Daria Saville.

Fernandez enters that contest brimming with confidence having won 11 of her past 14 matches dating back to August 2021.

She enjoyed a late-season surge that peaked with her run to the final in New York, during which she beat four WTA superstars in succession – Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka – to arrive in her first major final while still a teenager.

RELATED: Fernandez completes journey of discovery in 'magical' US Open

Although she ultimately lost the final to Emma Raducanu, Fernandez thrilled fans at Flushing Meadows and continued wowing crowds in the United States when she headed west to Indian Wells and stunned ninth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova en route to the last 16.

A fan at Indian Wells in October 2021 supporting Leylah Fernandez. (Getty Images)

Despite having built impressive momentum, Fernandez felt the off-season came at the perfect time for her after finishing the year at a career-high ranking of No.24.

“Before the US Open we'd talked as a team and we all decided that it would be best to end the season at Indian Wells. And we stuck to it because we knew it was a long season, the body needed the rest. The mind and the emotions, too, needed some time off from tennis,” Fernandez told

“So I was able to take a few weeks of vacation, I was also able to go to my older sister's wedding, which was a big plus for me. She kept pushing it back, not only because of the pandemic, but because I was travelling too much for tennis and she wanted me to be there!”

Targeting the top 10

Time to refresh has been crucial for Fernandez, who, given her status a Grand Slam finalist on the cusp of the world’s top 20, is now aiming for loftier milestones that will require a lot more competing and winning to achieve. 

She revealed she always set goals to achieve by season’s end, and that 2022 was no different.

“The first one, which will always be the most important one, is to finish the season healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally,” she said. 

“Then my second goal would be to finish top 10, and then play the WTA Finals at the end of the season.”

Fernandez admits the explosion in her profile since the US Open has at times surprised her and required time to adjust.

But ultimately, it is something she has always wanted.

“One weekend, I was walking around Miami with my mum and sister, and a few people recognised me which was super weird. I'm not in Canada, I'm not in South America (her father is Ecuadorian). It's Miami. And I did not know they followed tennis; they're more into American football and soccer, because of the Latin community. But it was such a surreal moment to have people who recognised me, ask for pictures, some autographs, while I was walking,” she revealed. 

“It was a fun moment for me to realise, wow, my tennis has made it around the world.

"Growing up I've always liked the spotlight (laughter). Playing sports I've always wanted to be on the first courts, having the crowd watching me play. I always liked to do some plays at school in front of the whole school, which was super fun. 

“I've always seen this as a thing that I've wanted to achieve.” 

Although she was a runner-up in the girls’ singles tournament at Australian Open 2019, Australian fans are yet to see Fernandez compete as an elite member of the WTA Tour.

The Canadian youngster is yet to win a main-draw match at Melbourne Park, and has won just one tour-level match on Australian soil, at the Grampians Trophy event in 2021.

But having arrived Down Under in a far more advanced stage of her flourishing career, Fernandez hopes to captivate fans the same way in which she has overseas. 

Leylah Fernandez celebrates her third-round win over defending champion Naomi Osaka at the 2021 US Open in New York. (Getty Images)

"I think I just want to show them the joy that I have for tennis. I was able to do that in New York, and I just want to do the exact same thing here in Australia,” she said. 

“The next few tournaments that I'm going to play, I just want to enjoy my time on the tennis court, show them that competition is not always serious. 

“It's not only that you've got to go one way; you can also enjoy your time, have some smiles here and there, and make competition fun.”