NEW YORK — A pair of young Canadian talents keep proving they have what it takes to compete in a pressure-packed tennis environment on a historic stage against big-name opponents.
Teenager Leylah Fernandez continued her stellar run at the U.S. Open by advancing to the quarterfinal of the women's draw on Sunday afternoon, hours before Felix Auger-Aliassime did the same on the men's side.
The 18-year-old Fernandez from Laval, Que., earned a hard-fought 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over 16th-seeded German Angelique Kerber in the fourth-round match.
Fernandez took control of the match in the decisive third set by twice breaking Kerber, a former world No. 1, for a commanding 5-2 advantage. The Canadian, who recorded five service breaks in nine chances, then held serve to clinch the victory.
She goes up against the fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the quarterfinal.
Later on Sunday night, Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime stormed back from a set down to eliminate American Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-4 in front of a hostile crowd under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Auger-Aliassime – with the help of 24 aces in the match – bounced back after dropping the first set, took command in the second before narrowly winning a hard-fought third set that went to a tiebreak. A relatively smooth fourth set against a relentless Tiafoe sealed the victory. The match lasted three hours 28 minutes.
At 21 years old, the Canadian became the youngest man to reach consecutive major quarterfinals since Juan Martin del Potro made it to three straight in 2008-09. Auger-Aliassime lost in the quarterfinal at Wimbledon in July.
He will now face unseeded 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain on Tuesday.
Fernandez reached the fourth round with a stunning upset win over No. 3 seed and defending champion Naomi Osaka. She rallied to beat Osaka 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 on Friday to advance past the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
What's more the 23-year-old Osaka came in riding a 16-match Grand Slam win streak.
Kerber took a roller-coaster first set that saw both players struggle to hold serve. The German recorded three service breaks in the set while Fernandez registered two while also committing four double faults (to hone for Kerber).
Kerber recorded her fourth service break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 advantage. But Fernandez countered with a break of her own to tie the set 4-4 before holding serve to go up 5-4.
Fernandez had a chance for another break leading 6-5, but Kerber rallied to hold serve and force the tie-breaker. Fernandez still pushed the match to a deciding set after winning the tie-breaker 7-5.
Fernandez took a 3-2 lead in the third with her fourth service break of the match. Then after holding her serve for a 4-2 advantage, Fernandez recorded another break to go ahead 5-2.
Fernandez finished the match with three aces (Kerber had none) but also six double faults.
In the evening session, Auger-Aliassime had a rocky start to his encounter. He was broken in the very first game by the 50th-ranked Tiafoe en route to a first-set loss where he committed four double faults.
It's not like the Canadian didn't have chances, though. He failed to convert on eight break-point opportunities in the first set alone, with the 23-year-old Tiafoe getting the better of him each time.
But Auger-Aliassime easily won the second set, bolstered by nine straight points to break the American's serve and go up 4-2. He broke Tiafoe again on set point.
The chances to take control were there again in the third. Up 5-4, Auger-Aliassime twice failed to convert on break point to win the set. Up 6-5, Tiafoe fought off yet another break point.
Auger-Aliassime converted just 3-of-15 break opportunities in the tennis match.
In the tiebreak, it was the young Canadian's turn to overcame set point. Down 6-5, Auger-Aliassime won three straight points to the dismay of the once raucous Arthur Ashe crowd.
Auger-Aliassime used that momentum and broke Tiafoe to start the fourth set. He held serve throughout and sent a forehand winner out of Tiafoe's reach on the final point to secure his spot in the Grand Slam quarterfinal.
The Canadian and American hugged at the net after the match.
In women's doubles action, Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and Brazil's Luisa Stefani outlasted American Shelby Rogers and Croatia's Petra Martic 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2021.
The Canadian Press