At the onset of this year’s US Open, the final grand slam of the tennis season, several Canadian athletes hoped to make deep runs on either side of the singles draw.
The tournament featured Canadian household names such as Denis Shapovalov, ranked 10th in the world, who was ousted in the third round. Meanwhile, 2019 US Open champ, Bianca Andreescu, ranked seventh in the world, made it to the fourth round before succumbing to injury. Felix Auger-Aliassime, ranked 15th in the world, had the best tournament of his career, making it all the way to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia.
However, the most successful Canadian player doubled as one of the most unlikely. Leylah Annie Fernandez, who turned just 19 years of age during the tournament, came within two sets of capturing the second ever major singles title on behalf of Canada. Of the six Canadians who made the main draw, she was the fifth lowest ranked, though she almost emerged victorious.
Prior to the US Open, Fernandez, ranked 73rd in the world, had only ever won a single Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournament — the 2021 Monterrey Open, a fifth-tier event. Despite her lack of experience in majors, Fernandez handled her two first matches with ease, dispatching both opponents in straight sets.
On the way to the final, she dispatched Naomi Osaka (ranked third), Angelique Kerber (ranked 17th), Elina Svitolina (ranked fifth) and Aryna Sabalenka (ranked second). The trophy cases of those four women are stuffed with 46 WTA titles, 7 major titles, a silver and a bronze Olympic medal, as well as nearly 80 million dollars in career earnings.
For good measure, Fernandez even won the hearts of the New York crowd by dedicating her run to the strength and fortitude of the city on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
“All my dreams are coming true,” said Fernandez in the aftermath of the tournament.
Her foil on the other side, Great Britain’s Canadian-born Emma Raducanu, had an equally remarkable run at the age of 18. She became the first player to win a Grand Slam by entering through the qualifying rounds, doing so without dropping a set or even coming close.
As for the other Canadians in the singles draw, Shapovalov was expected to make a promising run due to his performance at Wimbledon in 2021. His lackluster performance (losing to unseeded Lloyd Harris) drops him outside the top 10 rankings.
Andreescu continues to struggle with injuries, with her campaigns in the last year ending due to injury or COVID-19 protocols. She looked to have regained some of her former championship form before giving way to the much better conditioned Maria Sakkari, tumbling Andreescu from seventh to 20th on the rankings.
Auger-Aliassime took advantage of some luck in the draw, with the highest seed he faced en route to the semifinals being Roberto Bautista Agut (ranked 18th). Auger-Aliassime is now on the cusp of a top 10 ranking, having passed his countryman Shapovalov. Auger-Aliassime should be on an upwards trajectory, with the next step being improvements in his performances in the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour Finals, where he is currently winless, despite eight finals appearances
You can look forward to seeing Fernandez, Auger-Aliassime, Andreescu, and Shapovalov at the Indian Wells Masters in California from Oct. 4 to 17 as the last big tournament of the 2021 tennis season.