The bottom half semi-final is Aryna Sabalenka versus Leylah Fernandez. Both young players with a lot of potential, neither has made a final before, but one is the clear favourite and one the underdog, yet it’s hard to imagine Sabalenka resting easy ahead of this match.
Aryna Sabalenka is the last of our previewed players left in the women’s draw, she’s also the highest seed left. Sabalenka is world number two going into the US Open and having her best season to date. There are three things that go into Sabalenka’s game; power, effort and risk. She has drawn criticism in the past for putting in too much effort early in slams, leaving her tired later on.
Sabalenka has dropped a single set this slam, in the very first round to Nina Stojanović, she responded by winning the final set 6-0. On the way to this semi-final, she’s beaten Danielle Collins, Elise Mertens, and Barbora Krejčíková, all in straight sets. However, she wasn’t happy with how she beat Barbora Krejčíková, heading straight for the practice court immediately after.
Prior to the US Open she got her best grand slam result, a semi-final at Wimbledon. She also had a decent run at the national bank open in Canada, making the semi-final. Sabalenka is second seed at this US Open and made the most of her side of the draw thus far.
Leylah Fernandez isn’t a player many will have heard of before this tournament. She’s only 19 years old and ranked 73 in the world. She burst onto the scene at this US Open, showcasing excellent timing and strong determination. If she went all the way, she wouldn’t be the first unheard of 19-year-old Canadian to win the US Open. Could she follow in Bianca Andreescu’s footsteps just two years later?
Fernandez has beaten two former champions on her way to this semi-final, Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber, both going to three sets. Fernandez has played two more sets than Sabalenka. Earlier in the year, Fernandez won her first title, a WTA250 event in Mexico.
Beyond that, there was little indication that she would get this far in a major. She failed to get beyond the second round of any slam or the Olympics this year. In the events before the US Open, she managed to qualify for the western and southern open, but lost in the first round. Despite a modest season, Fernandez has risen to the challenge of this US Open and proved she belongs in the semi-final after beating Svitolina.
Who will win?
These two players have never played each other before. There’s a David and Goliath story to be seen here, Sabalenka is not only taller and more powerful, but the known favourite. At 23 years old, the Belorussian has to prove she deserves world number two. Fernandez has no such pressure. Both players will give everything, expect a three-set match that could go either way.
Main photos: Sabalenka and Fernandez in their respective quarter finals – Darren Carroll/USTA