Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 11 of the 2021 US Open.
Can Canadian Leylah Fernandez do it again? Does she have another three-set win in her?
That’s a partial look into our reaction to the 19-year-old’s win against fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina. It came by the score of 6-3, 3-6 and 7-6(5). (Add many, many more bewildered looks and a few expletives thrown in there for good measure, to get the full picture.)
The next biggest and brightest hope of Canadian tennis booked her ticket for the first semifinal of her career on day 9. It’s an unexpected run through the singles draw for the young woman, who has decided that her arrival is about one or two years earlier than anticipated.
Why is this major?
Because she’s Canadian, and because both this site and the man writing these words are Canadian. Simply put, we’ll use this as yet another occasion to vaunt our national program.
It’s been quite the whirlwind ride for Canadian tennis. There was a time not so long ago where the closest we came of having a Grand Slam champion was when Montreal native Greg Rusedski was making (semi) deep runs at majors sporting the Great Britain colours.
But back to Fernandez, if you will. The 19-year-old has showcased an aggressive brand of tennis that’s suited well for the hard courts and bright lights of New York. She’s been taking the game to her opponents, which is honestly great to see at any age. This run is probably a sign of bigger and better things still to come for the youngster. It’s not like she’s had to pull a rabbit out of her hat repeatedly. Fernandez has earned this.
She’s the youngest player to beat two top 5 players in the world (i.e. Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina) in the same Grand Slam since 17-year-old Serena Williams did it in 1997. Now, this doesn’t mean that Fernandez herself is the 21st century version of Williams, far from it.
But it’s a good way to properly contextualize what the Canadian has already accomplished. In other words, she’s already very much a big deal.
Day 11 preview
Find our predictions below for the semifinals on the schedule today. As we’ve done the past few days, we’ll give a small glimpse at the match-up and our choice on who wins, and why. The full day 11 schedule, meanwhile, is here.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Leylah Fernandez vs Aryna Sabalenka  (First match of the evening)
We have said all we could have said above about the young Canadian, but quietly Aryna Sabalenka is now into her second straight Grand Slam semifinal. For someone who had yet to reach the second week of a major, these two semifinals in a row are great. The Belarusian earned this one the hard way, navigating her way through a tricky draw to reach the final four. Will she blink first, or will it be Fernandez? We’ll give Sabalenka the edge. In two tight sets, because Fernandez apparently never loses three-set matches.
Arthur Ashe Stadium: Emma Raducanu vs Maria Sakkari  (Second match of the evening)
Whose magic will shine brightest on day 12? Other than a difficult quarterfinal match against Canadian Bianca Andreescu, Maria Sakkari has been imperial throughout the tournament. In taking down three seeded players in a row in Petra Kvitova, Andreescu, and Karolina Pliskova, the Greek has showcased gusto and a killer instinct that not many possess.
In fact, the lone person whose run in singles has been more impressive than Sakkari’s…is her semifinal opponent. Emma Raducanu, the 18-year-old from Great Britain, has somehow emerged from the qualifying draw to lay waste to the entire third section. We don’t care what your name is, but if you’re losing a minuscule 22 total games over five singles Grand Slam matches, you’re special.
Let’s keep the good times rolling. Raducanu gets the win in three sets.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG