September 9, 2021
New York, New York, USA
L. FERNANDEZ/A. Sabalenka
7-6, 4-6, 6-4
THE MODERATOR: Your thoughts on the match.
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: It was definitely a very good match from both of us. She started incredibly well in the beginning, but I'm just glad I was able to stay patient, fight for every point.
I was glad in the tiebreaker I was able to be offensive but not overly playing and go for my shots. The second set I had my chances, but I did a few mistakes. She jumped on the opportunity to get the set.
In the third, it was just a good battle. We went till the end. I was glad I was able to put that one more ball back in.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. I know you have admiration for Justine Henin. She had a phrase which was: impossible is nothing. Do you feel that's apropos now?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Yes, it is true. Impossible is nothing. Like my dad would tell me all the time there's no limit to my potential to what I can do. Every day we just got to keep working hard, we got to keep going for it. Nothing's impossible. There's no limit to what I can do. I'm just glad that right now everything's going well.
Q. You just spoke about no limit for what you can do. How would you describe what you have done so far?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: I think I've been doing some things incredible. I don't know. It's like I think one word that really stuck to me is 'magical' because not only is my run really good but also the way I'm playing right now.
I'm just having fun, I'm trying to produce something for the crowd to enjoy. I'm glad that whatever I'm doing on court, the fans are loving it and I'm loving it, too. We'll say it's magical (smiling).
Q. You spoke about tears and sweat on the court. Can you elaborate about that, the difficult part of your journey that may have given you the strength to come out and do what you did these past 10 days?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: I think the obvious one is that a lot of people doubted me, my family and my dreams. They kept saying no, that I'm not going to be a professional tennis player, that I should stop and just pursue going to school.
I remember one teacher, which was actually very funny - at the time wasn't, but now I'm laughing. She told me to stop playing tennis, you will never make it, and just focus on school.
You know what, I'm just glad that she told me that because every day I have that phrase in my head saying that I'm going to keep going, I'm going to push through, and I'm going to prove to her everything that I've dreamed of I'm going to achieve them.
But that's basically just the tip of the iceberg. There's many more things that we had to go through as a family.
Another example is that my mom had to go to California for a few years to support my family and I in the tennis world. That few years been definitely hard for me because I needed a mom, I needed someone to be there for me through the age of 10 to 13. I've barely seen her at that time. Every time I saw her, it was like seeing a stranger but at the same time someone so familiar.
I was just very lucky to have my mom here at this tournament cheering for me and having fun with me all this time. But we've gone through so many things together as a family. I'm just glad that right now everything's going on our side.
Q. What grade were you in when this teacher said this to you? What class?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: I was probably in grade six, five or six. No, it was just like for the end-of-the-year competition, the class competition. I gave in my permission slip right away saying no because during those days I have a tennis tournament and I won't be able to participate. She's also very competitive, so she said those words.
I think now I can say that I've done a pretty good job in achieving my dreams (smiling).
Q. In the moment that you won, you collapsed to the court, covered your face. What was going through your mind?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Nothing. Just a blank mind. I couldn't believe what was happening. A swarm of emotions just came in. I think I was relieved that the ball was out, glad that I fought so hard for two-plus hours, and that all the hard work is paying off and I'm in the finals.
Q. Considering what you were just saying about when you were growing up, separated from your mother, how much has that added to a steel-minded aspect that you have on court, the determination that you have?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: It was definitely hard at first to accept. But every time that I was on court when I was younger, when that happened, I had that focus, that mentality saying that I'm going to do everything in my power to achieve my dreams, to be closer to my dreams so that we can be together again.
I don't think, like, it's only -- I don't think I only did the job, but also my parents, my dad. He also made the decision one day to pack our things, go to the U.S. so we can be with my mom because it was too much.
You know what? I'm just glad that we made that decision of doing that, like having my mom go to California, because it made me stronger. I think it made my family, too, saying that we're going to make the sacrifice, it's going to be worth it so I can make that dream possible.
I'm just eternally grateful for everything that's happened to us.
Q. Where was your father and yourself when your mother was in California?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: We were back in Canada, in Laval. We were training there.
Q. Regardless of what happens next, what do you think this tournament has done for you moving forward on and off the court?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: It has helped me not only -- like I believed in my game, but it also has helped me open my eyes that I have no limit to my potential, that I can go three sets against these players, I can play against these top players, and I can win against these top players.
I'm just glad to have this experience and see where my tennis game is at, my tennis level is at. I'm extremely proud of the way I fought for every point. My mental toughness, that's been a huge plus for me. I'm just extremely happy with what I've achieved this week. Off court I'm just enjoying every minute of it.
Q. People in the Philippines have an interest in tennis now because of you. Would you like to address your fans in the Philippines? What do you know about the country of your mother?
LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Oh, wow. Thank you so much. I'm so happy to hear that everyone in the Philippines is cheering for me and supporting me. So thank you.
Unfortunately I do not know much about the Filipino culture, but I do know that my lolo, he cooks amazing. Hopefully when I get back to Canada and Toronto and visit him, he's going to make a really nice dish for our whole family, a special Filipino dish, because I do miss it.
You know what, I just can't wait to learn more about the culture in the future.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports