Leylah Fernandez Explains US Open Final Controversy — & Fans Have Thoughts

Lead Photo: Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
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Leylah Fernandez was on one of the biggest stages in the world for a tennis player – the US Open Final. At 19, she was one of the youngest to ever make it there. Her opponent, Emma Raducanu, was even younger than her. But Raducanu was having a much better day than Fernandez. It happens.

Tennis involves a lot of preparation, a lot of mental focus, a little luck, and a great deal of adjusting to what your opponent is doing. The more you play, the easiest it gets to alter a game plan that might not be working and to make your own momentum. The more you know a particular opponent, the easier it is to come up with the right strategy against them. Fernandez and Raducanu had played each other before, but that doesn’t mean they had much experience going into the US Open final. 

This all led to a particular moment that’s getting a lot of press. It came with Raducanu serving for the match. The 18-year-old Brit slid for a return and scrapped her knee, forcing the umpire to call a medical timeout. It was breakpoint, Fernandez, at that point, meaning the momentum – and the crowd – was leaning Fernandez’s way.

In tennis timeouts typically happen on changeovers, so Fernandez argued that the timing of this timeout was wrong and that it was making her lose that momentum. The last part is probably true, though it was a bit unavoidable, as rules state that if a player is bleeding play must stop immediately – something Fernandez was not aware of. 

She also was also unaware of how hurt Raducanu was. “I didn’t know how serious her fall was, so that’s why I went to see the official and ask her about it.”

The reaction from tennis fans has been mixed, with some very harsh words said about Fernandez and some understanding. 

And there’s of course, the very valid point about the double standards in tennis and how this was her first match of this kind.

For Fernandez, however, this is a learning experience. At the post-match conference, she said, “You know what, it just happened in the heat of the moment. 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.”