NEW YORK — Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez has the biggest win of her young career, upsetting No. 3 seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round of the U.S. Open.
The 18-year-old from Laval, Que., came from a set down to beat Osaka 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 on Friday, pulling off a shocker to advance past the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
The 23-year-old Osaka had won 16 straight Grand Slam matches and was holding serve for a straight sets victory before 73rd-ranked Fernandez broke the two-time U.S. Open champion for the first time forcing a tiebreak.
“I guess I wanted to stay on court a little bit longer. And I wanted to put on a show for everybody here,” Fernandez said. “One hour was not enough for me to be on court.”
And that's when Osaka started to unravel with numerous mistakes.
Fernandez took advantage of multiple errors from Osaka in the tiebreak, and would force a third set against the frustrated four-time Grand Slam winner.
Osaka threw her racket at least three times and was finally hit with a code violation in the third set when she hit the ball into the stands. She even draped a towel over her head as she took a break following her second-set loss.
“Honestly, I wasn't focusing on Naomi,” Fernandez said. “I was only focusing on myself and what I needed to do.”
Fernandez broke Osaka to start the third and held serve for the win before pumping her fist towards fans that cheered louder for her on every late point.
Fernandez will next face Angelique Kerber, the 2016 champion.
“I'm going to put on a show like I did tonight,” Fernandez said, “and we’re going to see how it goes.”
Osaka was on the court for the first time since the opening night of the tournament. She received a walkover into the third round when opponent Olga Danilovic withdrew Wednesday due to illness.
Osaka was playing her first Grand Slam since she pulled out of the French Open in late May for a mental health break. She also sat out Wimbledon, before participating in the Tokyo Olympics, where she lit the cauldron.
Meanwhile, Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime nearly blew a two-set lead before ousting Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round of the men's draw, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3.
The 12th-seeded Aliassime had his serve working for him early and often to reach the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the second year in a row.
He opened the match with back-to-back aces, then finished the first game with a third to hold serve and go up 1-0.
The Montrealer had five aces in total in the first set, and 15 through two, but gave back the next two sets before pulling off the victory in three hours 55 minutes.
Auger-Aliassime fired 27 aces in the five-set thriller, while Bautista Agut had just two.
Unforced errors by Auger-Aliassime kept 33-year-old Bautista Agut hanging around, with the Canadian making 74 compared to 31 for his opponent.
The 21-year-old Canadian will play either American Frances Tiafoe or fifth-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev in the next round.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 3, 2021.
The Canadian Press