In an emotional moment Thursday night after she won her U.S. Open match against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and got to the Open finals, Leylah Annie Fernandez was asked about having Steve Nash, a fellow Canadian, in her player’s box at Flushing Meadows ... cheering her on.
“It’s a huge inspiration, I remember my dad used him as an example one time for a whole month, telling us that we gotta fight, we gotta work hard just like Steve Nash,” Fernandez began, then shouted out Nash. “So it’s an honor to have you here watching me and cheering for me.”
“And hopefully, we can have a tennis match soon!”
The New York crowd cheered loudly at the mention of Nash. He beamed.
Fernandez, an unseeded 19-year-old from Montreal, has become a household name in Canada just as Nash was during his playing career in the NBA. Nash has supported a variety of Canadian athletes over the years and for seven years he was GM of the Canadian national basketball team. He is the godfather of R.J. Barrett of the Knicks.
The shoutout was big news in Canada as well as New York...
"I remember when I was younger, my dad used him as an example, and told me I had to work hard like Steve Nash. Hopefully we can have a tennis match soon."@leylahfernandez thanks @SteveNash for inspiration and support as she reaches her first Grand Slam final at the #USOpen. pic.twitter.com/4TwJN8q8xD— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 10, 2021
Fernandez, who has beaten the Open’s defending champ and Nos. 5 and 2 seeds on her way to the Finals, will face Emma Raducanu, also an unseeded teenager, in the US Open final on Saturday at 4:20 p.m. ET. If she wins, she’ll be the youngest women’s Open champion (at 19 years and five days) since Maria Sharapova in 2004.
Nash, an avid tennis player, has been at the Open several times this week, once with the Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu. That got him this retweet from Joe Tsai, owner of the Liberty and Nets ... as well as a Canadian citizen.
It’s hard to imagine Nash won’t be on hand for Saturday as well. Sounds like Leylah wants him around.
- Leylah Annie Fernandez: Canadian tennis star credits Steve Nash for inspiration at US Open - Gilbert McGregor - NBA Canada