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May 29, 2022

Leylah Fernandez

Paris, France

Press Conference

L. FERNANDEZ/A. Anisimova

6-3, 4-6, 6-3

THE MODERATOR: Can you start by giving us some thoughts on today's match.

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Yes, today's match was a very hard match, an incredible match for the both of us. I think we brought a high level. I'm just glad that today I was able to fight through some difficult moments and just enjoy the game as much as possible and just to have another opportunity to play in Philippe Chatrier was just an amazing atmosphere and it was a great feeling for me.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in English.

Q. Appreciate the conditions and situations are quite different from here to the US Open last year, but if you were to gauge the level of your play at this stage, US Open to here, what would you say?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: I think I'm improving more and more and understanding my game, which that's the most important thing. That was our goal after the US Open, that we just want to improve my tennis game, my all-around game, and just keep getting those opportunities and see where my level is at and see where I can improve for the next match.

Q. Would you say you are at the same level as what you were at this stage of the US Open?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: You know, I don't know, because I still feel like I'm the same player and same person. I think that question is better to ask, like, my coach. He'll know a little bit more what I have been doing good and what needs to be improved.

Q. Do you think your case what is more important your game than the opponent game? I mean, you think most about yourself, doesn't matter about your opponent or I'm wrong?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: You know, first and foremost, I do only focus on my game most of the time, and then of course I'll be thinking about my opponent's game, seeing where are the holes, what she's doing good and what I need to do, based on what I like to do and what I need to bring on the court.

So it's a little like mix of both, but I would say mainly it's focusing on my game and keep having confidence in myself.

Q. How much confidence did you take out of your last match? Just the fight against Belinda, getting a win over a quality opponent like that on this surface, how much did that carry into today?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: You know, I think I honestly totally forgot about that match. Like I was just trying to focus on Amanda, because she's another tremendous player. She's very offensive.

No, I just tried to be as offensive as her and just take my chances, and the balls went in today.

Q. Some members of the media are giving you the nickname Clay-lah because you are playing so well on clay right now. I wanted to know, what do you think of the nickname? Do any friends and family have any other nicknames for you? And if you won Roland Garros, would you consider officially changing your name to Clay-lah to celebrate what an achievement it would be?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: You know, I think it's actually pretty amazing that they came up with Clay-lah, because I have no creativity for that. I wouldn't think of that nickname.

But my family do use the nickname Leylannie, using my first and middle name, and they put it together, which I always like, I know that I'm doing things right or I'm like being a good kid when they're calling me Leylannie.

I think winning the French Open is a long way from here, and I just want to enjoy today's win and get ready for my next match.

Q. You said in your last press conference that you put a lot of pressure on yourself post-US Open. If you could just tell us in what sort of way was it? In practice, was it in terms of results? Where did you put the pressure on yourself?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: I think it's just my game that I just wanted to be, like, more offensive, more aggressive, and improve my game as fast as possible.

I think I just understood that there is a process, and it's still a long year, very long year, and I just need to calm myself down, calm my mind down, and just accept that things are going to be tough. Things are going to go sideways in a match, in a practice, and just understand that I got more tools in my toolbox that I can use and just find solutions.

Q. Also in previous press conference you talked about how you chose to be lefty. So maybe throughout your career, I think you had made many important choice, decisions, mixed choices, and maybe there has been many turning point in your career. So if you pick like one or two, like the biggest decision-making or turning point, what it would be?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: It's hard to say like one or two moments in my career and my life that's a turning point for me, because there are so many events that has happened, affected me in a good way and in a negative way.

Honestly, the negative way, I find it good because it may not only -- my parents know what they need to do to learn but also me to understand that I can just accept and go through some tough moments and become a better athlete, a better person.

Then afterwards, I think every single moment has affected me in some little form that has made me the player that I am today. And like I said, I can't choose one or two specific moments that have affected me in a good way.

Q. Today's media conference started at 15:30. I want to know when you are 15-30 down in a game, what sort of thoughts go through your mind or do you have quite a clear head and just concentrate on the ball?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: You know, I think the very first moment when I hear the score, things are like flying through my mind. I can't know for sure what I was thinking like then, but I do have a, like, nice little process, routine, that I can calm myself down. I was just trying to follow that process, I can have at least one goal, one objective that I can execute it as best as I could.

I'm glad that today I was able to execute it most of the time, most of the match.

Q. Since New York, do you still feel like an underdog when you step out on the match, regardless of the ranking of the other person? I don't know if your history as a player who kind of felt like she had something to prove or kind of was fighting against things, that sort of thing, if that's carried over, or is that how your mindset is every time you step out on the court now?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Every time I step out on the court I still have something to prove. I still have that mindset I'm the underdog. I'm still young, I still have a lot to show to the people, to the public so that they can just enjoy the tennis match.

That's ultimately my goal, and that's why I, like, want to do well in matches. Then I think with that mindset has helped me understand that I can just keep going and keep competing in the right way and the right direction.

Q. Next match you meet an Italian, left-hander. How do you match with left-hander like you? Second, what about your passion? Your father is from Ecuador. The Italian girl, as you can imagine, is a little bit, you know, excited, the girl, and your feelings with someone like an Italian which is pump-up, and she laughs, she... What do you think about it?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Well, first of all, we don't have many left-handers on tour, so I think it will be a tricky match, like every single match is going to be tricky. We are just going to have to find solutions, just find a way to play against a left-hander. And then afterwards, like, I just love that players are bringing their own personality and their own culture on court.

She's Italian, so they are very passionate about their sports. I think it just brings another good entertainment for the fans. That's what I try to do sometimes too to bring my dad's Latino culture on court too, bring that fire.

So I think it will be an interesting match from that standpoint.

Q. Last night the Champions League final. Madrid comes through. Today Thierry Henry is out there watching you play and giving you a standing ovation. What has your reaction been to the football relation with respect to you over the last 24 hours?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: I was very, very disappointed I wasn't able to watch the game live or even just on TV. I had to go to bed early.

But, you know, when I like saw the news that Real Madrid won, I was just so happy, because we've been following the team for a while now, took a little hiatus, but then afterwards when we saw that they are doing things well, we were just so happy for them. Then afterwards seeing that Thierry Henry was also in the stands, enjoying the tennis match, like I said, that's one of my goals so that people can enjoy the tennis game.

To see him do a standing ovation for our match is just an incredible feeling and hopefully I can reproduce that level again and we can just all enjoy our time on the tennis court.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in French.

Q. I wanted to ask you a question regarding Quebec tennis, because it seems to be positive for you, for Felix Auger-Aliassime, also, who will be facing a difficult player afterwards. But what explains that there are good players coming up from Canada, and especially from Quebec?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: It's a bit difficult to answer, because everyone has a different trajectory. When I grew up, I saw a few Canadian players who succeeded pretty well on the tour and motivated us to work hard, to improve and to play matches like them.

When I saw Felix playing in the ATP Tour, winning his matches as a junior, this motivated me to work harder. And we hope that there will be even more Quebec players on the tour in the future. I know there are some junior players. I hope they will succeed and have the pleasure, the great joy to play here at Roland Garros and play here in a few years' time as pros.

Q. The fact that there are no more French players, you have the impression that by extension the French crowd will be especially attached to you due to their connections between Quebec and French. Cultural links.

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Yes, I'm very happy that the French audience was supporting me over the last matches. It did indeed help me a lot, and I hope it will continue. Although if they encourage my opponent, it's normal, because there will be a part of the crowd that will be conflicting in that way.

For me it's a great moment to see that people appreciate watching me, watching my opponent, and that they are having fun during the match.

Q. There is a beautiful possibility in the draw, I don't know how much you are watching the draw during the tournament, but nine top 10 have fallen. A lot of good players remaining, but do you see an opening for you?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Honestly, there is no opening, because all the players that are still present at this stage of the tournament are excellent players. They work very hard. They have this winning mentality. So there is absolutely no opening. It will be a difficult match. Each match will be difficult. The opponents are very hard.

Q. Will you watch a bit of Felix's match?

LEYLAH FERNANDEZ: Yes, I will watch a bit of it. It will be an excellent match.

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