Who is Leylah Annie Fernandez's dad Jorge? Her coach father knew nothing about tennis
The US Open final will be between two teenagers - 18-year-old Brit Emma Raducanu and 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez. Raducanu became the youngest Slam finalist in 17 years by ousting 17th seed Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-4. "I'm in the final and I can't actually believe it," Raducanu said. Fernandez beat second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6 (7/3), 4-6, 6-4, for her third Open win over a top-five rival. "Now I can say I've done a pretty good job of achieving my dreams," Fernandez said.
The teen tennis prodigies will meet on Saturday, September 11, at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where one of them will claim her first Grand Slam title. "I just want to play a final," Fernandez told Agence France-Presse. "I'm going to enjoy my victory and worry about it tomorrow."
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Who is Leylah Annie Fernandez’s father?
Fernandez, as per AFP, showed the "mental toughness preached by her father-coach" Jorge in the tie-breaker. "That's years and years of work and tears and blood and sacrifice," she said. "I have no idea (how I won)," said Fernandez. "I'd say it's thanks to the New York crowd. They helped me. They cheered for me. They never gave up… I don't know how I got that last point in but I'm glad it was and I'm glad I'm in the finals.”
As per the New York Times, Fernandez passed through Tennis Canada’s high-performance development program, where many were either immigrants or the Canadian-born children of immigrants. Her father and coach, Jorge Fernandez, was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and moved to Montreal with his family when he was a small boy. Fernandez’s mother, Irene Exevea, is of Filipino descent from Toronto.
Jorge Fernandez, per the Times, describes himself as a former journeyman professional soccer player in the lower levels of the game, mostly in Latin America. He said he never knew anything about tennis until his daughter showed interest as a schoolgirl. “She played some soccer in Montreal,” Jorge said in an interview with the Times last week, “But I didn’t want her to just follow me. I wanted her to find her own passion.”
He said that his daughter was part of a Quebec-based development program for a while, but it dropped her in part because she was tiny. “I told her, ‘It’s OK, we’ll do it ourselves,’” Jorge said.
He said that after several world-class performances in the court, Tennis Canada officials finally invited her to train with them. But there were differences of opinion, especially over how much Fernandez should play. Ultimately, Jorge took his daughter out of the program. “I told them we would meet up again,” he explained, “And look, we have. It’s OK to have disagreements. We all wanted the same thing, which is for Leylah to be successful. We just had a different idea of how to do it, for a while. But they have been doing great work. I tip my hat to them with all the success they have had with so many Canadians going through the program.”
According to Jorge, the tennis star’s mother Irene Exevea thought he was “crazy to remove his daughter from a program that provided free coaching and more.” But he was committed to doing it himself, so he and Leylah and her younger sister, Bianca Jolie, who is 17, continued to train on their own in Montreal.
This, Jorge said, left Exevea to be the breadwinner, and who moved to California so she could earn US dollars and stayed there for three years while Jorge trained his daughters. “Those were difficult years because they only saw their mother maybe two times a year,” Jorge said. “We finally decided to move to Florida. It’s the Mecca of tennis, and we could have the whole family together again.”
As a former football player, he did not know much about tennis. To train his daughter, Jorge reportedly immersed himself in the sport, reading texts and watching videos on the internet. He taught his daughter to study Belgian tennis pro Justine Henin, who was approximately the same height as his daughter, and who he felt was an “appropriate blueprint for success.”
When she won the French Open junior title in 2019, Fernandez asked her father if they could celebrate at McDonald’s. “It was just the two of us,” Jorge said. “It was sweet, but at the same time, the whole family should have been there. It’s one of the difficult things of the tennis life, all the travel.”