Ecuadorian-Filipino professional tennis player Leylah Fernandez was recently named by ESPN as one of the “21 tennis players under 21 to watch” in 2021. The 18-year-old rising star, who was born in Canada, is currently ranked No. 88 in the world among women players.
In June 2019, Fernandez became the first Canadian female winner of a junior Grand Slam title in seven years when she defeated Emma Navarro in the French Open Girl’s Singles Final. The following month, Fernandez won her first professional singles title and doubles title at the Gatineau National Bank ITF Challenger.
Fernandez made her Grand Slam debut last year at the Australian Open, but was defeated in the first round. The following week at the Fed Cup in Switzerland, she earned the most impressive win of her young career when she beat Swiss tennis player Belinda Bencic, who was ranked No. 5 in the world at the time.
Following her victory over Bencic, Fernandez reached the Final of the Mexican Open, but lost to Heather Watson.
She advanced to the quarterfinals at the Monterrey Open where she upset 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in the second round.
When she’s not playing tennis, Fernandez enjoys taking online college courses at Indiana University East. She expects she will be ranked in the Top 10 by the end of this year.
“I know I have a long way to get there,” she told ESPN, “but that’s the goal and I think I can do it.”