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U.S. Open: Leylah Fernandez upsets Angelique Kerber to reach quarterfinals

Leylah Fernandez hits a return during her victory over Angelique Kerber.
Leylah Fernandez hits a return during her victory over Angelique Kerber in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Sunday.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Leylah Fernandez of Canada followed up her upset of No. 3 Naomi Osaka in grand style.

The 18-year-old from Montreal upset No. 16 seed and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Angelique Kerber of Germany on Sunday to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals, righting herself after an inconsistent first set to earn a 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Fernandez, who isn’t seeded here, had a 4-2 lead in the first set but Kerber won the last four games of the set and extended that into the second set to win seven of eight games. But Fernandez, daughter of an Ecuadorian father and Canadian mother of Filipino heritage, found her footing and turned things around by breaking Kerber’s serve to pull even at 4-4. In the tiebreak, Fernandez took a 5-1 lead before Kerber — the 2016 U.S. Open winner — managed to regroup. Fernandez had three chances to win the set before she closed it out.

The third set went on serve until Fernandez broke for 3-2. Fernandez ended the match on her first match point, when Kerber netted a backhand.

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Fernandez credited her friends and family for bringing her back to earth after her upset of Osaka. It was only the third round, they said. “You still have Angie Kerber. She’s a multiple Grand Slam champion and she’s a fighter,” Fernandez recalled them saying.

Asked where she got her composure, Fernandez smiled. “I honestly don’t know,” she said. “I just try to use all my trainings from back home.”

She next will face Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, the No. 5 seed. “That’s going to be a tough match. She’s a fighter. She returns a lot of balls,” Fernandez said. “I’m just going to go on court and have fun, just like I’ve been doing the past few days, and see how it goes.”

Reilly Opelka returns a shot during his match against Soonwoo Kwon at the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

Reilly Opelka is guaranteed to leave the U.S. Open with $265,000 for reaching the round of 16, and the No. 22 seed will earn more if he defeats unseeded Lloyd Harris on Monday. But part of Opelka’s prize money will go toward paying a $10,000 fine he was assessed for walking out to the court for his match against Nikoloz Basilashvili on Saturday carrying a bag with a logo that Grand Slam rules deemed was too big.

Opelka, a Michigan native who lives in Delray Beach, Fla., and is ranked No. 24 in the world, toted a pink bag with a logo that read, “Tim Van Laere Gallery.” According to its website, the gallery is in Antwerp, Belgium, and showcases established and emerging contemporary artists.

According to the arcane rules that govern players’ display of sponsor logos, the type size of the words on the bag were too big, and Opelka was fined under Section C of the Grand Slam code. He took to Twitter to publicize the bizarre punishment.

“US Open ticket sales must be struggling this year. 10K for a pink bag, at least it looked fly,” he said on Twitter, adding a couple of emojis and the hashtag #corporate.

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During a news conference Saturday, he called the fine “a bit harsh, a bit excessive.” He added, “My job is not to measure logos. It is just not. My job is to win matches. I have bigger things to worry about. For the referee to tell me it’s my job to measure a logo, no, clearly not. It’s his job. I’m trying to beat Basilashvili and make the round of 16 of a Grand Slam.

“Our prize money has been decreased for over a year and a half now, but our fines have been increased. I don’t want to point fingers out on other players, not trying to throw anyone under the bus. But there has been people that have gotten away with a lot worse with a lot less of a fine.

“You want to take away our prize money the whole time? I guess they’re making up for lost ticket sales last year, I guess. I’d love to see it get donated elsewhere. We’ve had a few tragedies here in the States the last couple weeks. If they are going to take 10K from me, it better not go to a major corporation. That’s my thought.”

The U.S. Tennis Assn. publishes a list of fines incurred at the Open for infractions such as racket abuse, uttering audible obscenities, receiving coaching, and unsportsmanlike conduct. Opelka’s fine is the largest issued so far. Twenty male players have been fined, and four female players have been fined.

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Former world No. 1 Andy Roddick suggested that the gallery capitalize on the worldwide exposure Opelka had provided. “The press stories the big guy is getting for this company through his $10K fine is totally worth it,” Roddick said on Twitter. “If I’m the company, I pay the fine for him, and have him take the bag back out again for the next match.”

American Shelby Rogers stunned Ashleigh Barty and the tennis world Saturday by rallying to a 6-1, 1-6, 7-6 (5) victory at the U.S. Open.

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Opelka is one of four Americans left in the singles draw as fourth-round play begins. The others are Frances Tiafoe — who was scheduled to face Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada later Sunday — Jenson Brooksby of Sacramento and Shelby Rogers, who upset women’s No. 1 Ash Barty on Saturday night. Brooksby, 20, is the youngest American to reach the round of 16 since Roddick did so in 2002 at age 20.

American Jack Sock’s bid to reach the fourth round ended late Saturday when a leg injury forced him to retire from his match against No. 4 Alexander Zverev of Germany. Zverev advanced, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 2-1 (retired).

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“Jack I think played the best set of tennis I’ve ever seen him play. I did one unforced error in the whole set and I lost it 6-3 without having really any chances,” Zverev said. “If he would have kept it up, I probably would not have won the match…. When he gets injured, it’s a shame because otherwise it would have been an incredible match, I think.”

Elina Svitolina extends win streak with win over Simona Halep

Elina Svitolina, holding a racket, punches a fist into the air.
Elina Svitolina reacts while playing Simona Halep during the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Sunday in New York.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine extended her winning streak to nine matches with an authoritative 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 12 Simona Halep of Romania on Sunday. Svitolina, the first woman to reach the quarterfinals, hasn’t lost a set here.

Halep did well to get this far. She missed the French Open and Wimbledon because of a torn calf muscle, and she wasn’t as match-fit as she knew she’d need to be in order to get far at the U.S. Open. Still, she found reasons for optimism.

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“When you don’t have many matches, you always are a little bit stressed before the match. But overall I think I did a good job here, and I’m looking forward actually with positive thoughts,” she said.

“I’m positive about how I played, how I feel. No pain, no injury. So this is the most important thing. Now I need a little bit of rest and to reflect a little bit what I have to do better next time against her because always it’s been a tough match with her. But, yeah, it’s normal that she had a better chance today because she played so much this year and she had confidence very high. So, yeah, I think it was a good day.”

Halep also said she normally would play at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells — which was delayed to October this year for pandemic-related reasons — but she will consult with her team and see how she feels before deciding if she will compete.

Botic Van de Zandschulp continues impressive run with upset over No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman

Botic Van de Zandschulp returns to Diego Schwartzman during the fourth round of the US Open.
Botic Van de Zandschulp returns to Diego Schwartzman during the fourth round of the US Open on Sunday in New York.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)
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Botic Van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, who had to go through qualifying to earn a berth in the main draw of the U.S. Open, continued his impressive run here by upsetting No. 11 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 5-7, 6-1 at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Van de Zandschulp, 25, is ranked 117th in the world. Schwartzman, who reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2017 and 2019, is ranked 14th.

Van de Zandschulp had lost the first set in each of his qualifying matches and each of his first three main draw matches here. He changed that around by winning the first two sets against Schwartzman but had difficulty halting Schwartzman’s comeback attempt.

Van de Zandschulp squandered two match points in the 10th game of the fourth set and two more in the seventh game of the fifth set before he served a 125 mph ace and watched Schwartzman net a forehand after four hours and 19 minutes.

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Asked during an on-court interview how his success had been received back home, Van de Zandschulp smiled. “I have to say I think before the tournament no one expected me to reach the quarterfinals,” he said. “I think they’re amazed and, hopefully, proud.”

His quarterfinal opponent will be No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev, who rolled past No. 24 Daniel Evans 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 at Arthur Ashe Stadium.


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