“Fight for your dream and make every point count”
Immigrants are cheerfully jubilating at the US Open where teenage sensation, Leylah Fernandez has raced to the semi-finals after beating Olympic medalist Elina Svitolina in another fearless performance.
Why is all the excitement? Fernandez’s father, Jorge is a former professional footballer of Ecuadorian descent while her mother Irene was born to parents from the Philippines.
Mirror neurons form an integral part of our complex psychological makeup as human beings. When we see someone smile, our brains fire signals that cause us to smile as well. We are able to vicariously experience the joy -and indeed the pain- of others.
The closer we identity with others, the easier we are able to experience their victories and defeats as ours.
That is why we can all tap into the Fernandez excitement.
Fernandez had earlier beaten defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber and now Olympic medallist Svitolina in her run to her first major semi-final.
The young Canadian now becomes the youngest semi-finalist at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova.
Leylah Fernandez is also the first-ever player of the Philippines and Ecuadorian descent to go that far in the US Open. That is the record that is more important and exciting to Filipinos and other immigrant communities across Canada.
Fernandez has shown remarkable composure in New York, backing up her easy power with a calmness and composure on the court.
The success secrets of Leylah Fernandez: “small, but mighty”
- Self- confidence
Her father, who coaches her, is an ex-professional footballer. As a child, Fernandez says she believed she could beat him in games of backyard football – and it is that self-confidence that has backed up her performances in New York.
- Hard work and a can-do spirit.
Growing up, she played football, volleyball, tennis and often competed in track-and-field. For hours she would practice hitting her shots against the basement wall
- Daddy’s power words
“My dad told me so many things but today he told me to have fun,” she said.
“He said, fight for every point and to not make the quarter-finals my last match and fight for my dream.”
- Learner’s heart
Sporting giants outside the world of tennis are also a source of inspiration for the young tennis star.
Lionel Messi, Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Isaiah Thomas are just a handful of names Fernandez spends time learning from.
She tries to learn something unique from everyone.
- Use what you’ve got
Standing at just 1.68m tall Fernandez is on the shorter side of most professional tennis players.
Learning to work with her frame to neutralise the strength and power of those much taller than her became a big part of her development.
She may be small, but she is mighty.
The jubilee continues
On Thursday, Fernandez will play the semi-finals against the No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka. And after that, who knows?
Whatever happens, the party is not about to stop for Filipinos and South Americans in Canada and all over the world.