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Teenager Leylah Fernandez notches another upset to reach U.S. Open quarters

Sep 5, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after her match against Angelique Kerber of Germany (not pictured) on day seven of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after her match against Angelique Kerber of Germany (not pictured) on day seven of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez ousted a former U.S. Open champion for the second straight match to land a spot in the quarterfinals as she rallied for a stunning 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over Germany’s Angelique Kerber on Sunday at New York.

Fernandez smacked 45 winners against 34 unforced errors while dispatching the 16th-seeded Kerber in two hours, 15 minutes. The latest win comes two days after she upset third-seeded Naomi Osaka, a two-time U.S. Open champion.

Fernandez, who turns 19 on Monday, will face fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the quarterfinals. Svitolina notched a solid 6-3, 6-3 victory over 12th-seeded Simona Halep of Romania.

Kerber, the 2016 U.S. Open champ, won the first set and led 4-2 in the second when Fernandez suddenly came alive. She won the next three games and eventually won the tiebreak to force a third set.

The 33-year-old Kerber held a 2-1 lead in the third set before Fernandez won five straight games to complete another huge win.

Kerber recorded 28 winners and 22 unforced errors and was gracious in defeat.

“I gave everything I had today,” Kerber said. “She played, I think, an unbelievable match, especially in the third set, also in the second.

“I think she played also one of her best matches in her career, and she had nothing to lose. She went out there, she played her tennis.”

The left-handed Fernandez, who pumped her arm after nearly every winning point, said she is trying to simplify things so that the big stage doesn’t feel any different than a normal tournament.

But she definitely knows it is different, as she became just the fourth Canadian woman to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Bianca Andreescu (2019) is the only woman from Canada to win the title.

The task of advancing sure doesn’t get easier with Svitolina waiting.

“That’s going to be a very tough match,” the 73rd-ranked Fernandez said. “She’s a great player. She’s a fighter. She returns a lot of balls. She’s offensive and aggressive so I’m just going to go on court and have fun like I’ve been doing the past few days.”

Svitolina, a 2019 U.S. Open semifinalist, was on her game against Halep as she had five aces and converted 71.4 percent of her first-serve points.

Svitolina had 16 winners and 14 unforced errors while Halep had 24 winners and 22 unforced errors.

“Right now I’m feeling good,” Svitolina said of her 76-minute victory. “I think I’m playing really aggressive right now. I think the most aggressive I’ve ever been, making lots of winners, serving really good. I want to keep this going, feeling that I’m in a good mind.”

Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus also advanced by rolling to a 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 15 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium.

Sabalenka overcame 10 double faults and had 22 winners and 21 unforced errors. Mertens had 13 winners and 16 unforced errors in the 72-minute match.

Sabalenka faces the winner of Sunday night’s match between eighth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic and ninth-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

–Field Level Media