Leylah Fernandez stood on the rostrum, combating again tears. She had completed an eloquent runner-up speech, wanting as if all she wished was to vanish beneath the stands of Arthur Ashe Stadium and get a hug from her household. But she extended her anguish for a number of extra minutes.
Fernandez, who had simply misplaced within the U.S. Open ladies’s closing, requested for the microphone again.
“I know on this day, it’s especially hard for New York and everyone around the United States,” she stated, referring to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist assaults. “I just want to say that I hope I can be as strong and resilient as New York has been the last 20 years. Thank you for always having my back. Thank you for cheering for me. I love you, New York.”
It was a notable show of compassion from a girl who had simply endured a crushing defeat, who had turned 19 5 days earlier, and who had not been born when the assaults on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a passenger jet that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., occurred.
“The awareness and composure that she showed in that speech was just incredible,” stated Patrick McEnroe, the previous participant and ESPN analyst. “She took a moment to acknowledge a somber event and the world around her. That was something.”
The younger Canadian misplaced to Emma Raducanu, 6-Four, 6-Three. Raducanu, an 18-year-old from Britain, needed to win three matches within the qualifying rounds to get into the principle draw, and whereas she by no means misplaced a set, she confronted solely two seeded gamers within the event, neither within the high 10.
Fernandez’s beautiful two-week journey could have been extra revelatory in some methods, even contemplating the loss within the closing. She needed to beat 4 seeded gamers in a row, two of them previous champions — No. Three Naomi Osaka, No. 16 Angelique Kerber, No. 5 Elina Svitolina and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. All of her matches went to a few units.
It was a transcendent efficiency, however some have been equally impressed by how Fernandez dealt with herself afterward.
“Look at what we saw and heard from Leylah,” stated Billie Jean King, the four-time U.S. Open singles champion, who stood on the podium alongside the gamers after the match. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard that, ever, at any match. Have you?”
Fernandez stated she awoke on Saturday, observed the date, and requested her dad and mom precisely what had occurred 20 years in the past. She heard about their private experiences after they discovered of the assaults, and concerning the terror of so many individuals in New York, throughout the United States and all over the world. She felt compelled to deal with it.
“I just wanted to let them know that they’re so strong, they’re so resilient,” Fernandez stated. “They’re just incredible. Just having them here happy, lively, just going back to the way they were, having my back during these tough moments, has made me stronger and has made me believe in myself a lot more.”
The hardest level for Fernandez occurred late within the match, when Raducanu, who had scraped her leg, took a medical timeout. At the time, Fernandez had a break level and was inside a degree of getting the set again on serve. But Raducanu, who wanted her left knee bandaged, got here again on court docket and 5 factors later closed out the match.
A pissed off Fernandez mentioned the matter with the chair umpire throughout the timeout and once more instantly after the match. As Fernandez sat in her chair, defeated, the umpire climbed down to clarify the state of affairs additional. Fernandez turned visibly upset, tearing up. But later, she conceded that the incident had been dealt with appropriately.
“It just happened in the heat of the moment,” she stated. “It was just too bad that it happened in that specific moment with me with the momentum. But it’s sports. It’s tennis. Just got to move on.”
It was a reflective second for the teenager.
As a relative newcomer on tour, Fernandez was a largely unknown persona to many tennis followers. Most had seen solely the ebullient model, celebrating her exceptional wins. Saturday was the primary time they noticed how she handled disappointment.
There have been a few moments of frustration, some anguished stares and some tears. But general, she dealt with herself a lot the best way champions do. She was happy with herself, and was in a position to see an even bigger image than one loss.
“Seeing my family and my fitness coach, my agents, all there smiling, having fun,” Fernandez stated, “means a lot more to me than any victory.”