Leylah Fernandez’s run to the U.S. Open final has been exciting, but she revealed her tennis career was nearly derailed by a teacher who didn’t offer support.
Fernandez, the Canadian tennis rising star who just turned 19, is set to play 18-year-old British tennis sensation Emma Raducanu in the final on Saturday. Some years ago she was told she should just focus on school and not devote her time to the sport she’s come to love.
“A teacher told me to stop playing tennis, you’ll never make it, just focus on school,” she said, via WTA Insider.
“I’m glad she told me that because every day I have that phrase in my head saying: I’m going to keep going, push through, prove to her everything I’ve dreamed of I’m going to achieve.”
Fernandez has received some tremendous support – even from the top leader of her home country.
“We’ve got a Canadian in the #USOpen final! Caught the start of the match before heading to the debate and I just want to say congratulations, @leylahfernandez – and good luck in the final!” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted.
Fernandez isn’t the only Canadian athlete who was told not to focus on sports.
Swimmer Penny Oleksiak won three medals for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics over the course of the last two weeks, giving her seven total Olympic medals. She had a message to a former teacher who said she shouldn’t be focusing on swimming.
“I just googled ‘Canada’s most decorated Olympian’ and my name came up. I want to thank that teacher in high school who told me to stop swimming to focus on school (because) swimming wouldn’t get me anywhere. This is what dreams are made of,” she tweeted last month.
“Also in reference to my last tweet no shade at all towards teachers in general, my sister is a teacher and I see her inspiring kids everyday.. Most of my teachers saw the vision and pushed me towards it. That one who constantly dragged me down though,, WOAT (Worst of All-Time).”
Fernandez edged No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4, on Thursday night.