“Inspired Me to Play Like That”: How Leylah Fernandez Drew Inspiration From Rafael Nadal’s Practice Session

Published 09/10/2021, 12:06 AM EDT
Sep 9, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after her match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus (not pictured) on day eleven of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports


Tennis stars are not born overnight; they have to perform at their best week in and week out. Amazingly, the 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez played the best tennis of her young career throughout the US Open 2021 campaign. And as a result, she outclassed many big names on the way to her maiden Grand Slam final. Unsurprisingly, she once looked up to Rafael Nadal as the inspiration behind her competitiveness.

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Notably, before the 2020 season had begun, Fernandez saw the Spaniard training for the Australian Open. By the looks of how Nadal invested himself even in practice, the young Canadian got inspired. Afterward, she aimed to give in as much as the 20-time Grand Slam champion gave on the court.

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Who knew that after a year and a half, Fernandez’s competitive spirit would get rewarded. However, her fearlessness and going behind every point reminds many of the ‘King of Clay’ Nadal.

Sep 9, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Leylah Fernandez of Canada celebrates after match point against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus (not pictured) on day eleven of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

When Leylah Fernandez drew inspiration from Rafael Nadal

As a 17-year-old, it was a dream moment for Leylah Fernandez to play in the same tournament as Rafael Nadal. But more, watching him play gave the Canadian teenager a glimpse into what she had to do.

“He was training as if he was playing a match,” Fernandez began. “He was so intense out there. There was a crowd watching, so I wanted to impress them, too, and it put so much pressure on me.”

Rafael Nadal of Spain serves during a practice session ahead of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 10, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Furthermore, Fernandez revealed that seeing the Spaniard also cut out her doubts for the season. All she wanted to do then was play with the same ferocity as Nadal.

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“There were so many unknowns for me at that point and I didn’t know how I was going to play [throughout the season], but seeing him out there inspired me to play like that in my trainings, too, and step it up. It was definitely one of those surreal moments,” Fernandez concluded.

Sep 9, 2021; Flushing, NY, USA; Leylah Fernandez of Canada reacts after winning the first set tiebreaker against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus (not pictured) on day eleven of the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Now, a year and a half later, the 19-year-old Canadian will play for the US Open 2021 title. Until now, Fernandez has upset Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina, and Aryna Sabalenka.

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In the epic final, she will take on 18-year-old Emma Raducanu. Do you think Fernandez will taste glory in New York in the finals on Saturday?

Watch this story: Breathtaking Tennis From 18-Year-Old Sensation at Us Open 2021

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Purav Joshi

1127 articles

Purav Joshi is a Tennis author at EssentiallySports. Having a degree in Films, Television and Media Production, he guided his passion for writing and journalism into the sport of aces and rallies. With over 2 years of experience as a copywriter, Purav has authored over 500 tennis articles.

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