The Fernandezes tame success

The Fernandez tame success

DAY

Almost a year ago, Leylah Fernandez reached the US Open final. An unexpected result from the height of his 19 years which changed his life, but also that of his father and trainer, Jorge, taking them away from the “nightmare”. they have long experienced. 

” This result gives us a lot more flexibility, explained the latter to the Journal. It improved his ranking, it helps us choose better tournaments. » 

The story of the Fernandez clan has been told many times. The family was not rolling for gold, making it difficult for Leylah to climb to the top of the rankings in this expensive sport.

There was a time when Jorge Fernandez skipped meals to make sure that her young champion can eat. 

“I was content with lunch at the hotel,” he said last year. Sometimes when she had a few fries left over for dinner, I would take them. 

The tennis player is seen here in an advertisement for Lululemon clothing.

” The work continues “

Even last year, when the Lavalloise was ranked among the top 80, her father did not attend all of his tournaments. He was also absent from this famous US Open, he who also trains his youngest, Bianca. 

Thanks to the $1.6 million his daughter pocketed in New York, Mr. Fernandez now travels full time with her. He was there when she won the title in Monterrey, Mexico in March. The only tournament he missed was in Cincinnati, three weeks ago. 

This result also allowed the young left-hander to surround herself with many sponsors. During this U.S. Open, she's ubiquitous during TV breaks.

She can be seen enjoying a Gatorade drink or even in an advertisement for Subway restaurants. In recent months, Leylah has also changed equipment supplier. She is now dressed by the Canadian company Lululemon. 

But despite all the positive that this result has brought to the Fernandez clan, the dad points out that the last few months have been a long learning curve. 

“The work continues. More tournaments also means more travel, so less time spent training,” he noted.

“Another thing that has changed, he continued, is expectations. Those of the public, promoters, sponsors. Before, it was just us. I've always said it's easier to lose than to win. Because when you win, it's like a wave. But you can quickly find your head under water. 

Leylah is now part of an advertisement for Gatorade sports drinks.

Money doesn't buy everything

The Fernandezes also noticed something else: if it offers more latitude in this ultra competitive world, money does not buy everything. 

For if Leylah continued to climb the ladder of the rankings thanks to good results — she reached No. 13, her peak in August — it was not a perfect year either.

There were quick defeats, like the one in the first round Australian Open. 

And also, this stress fracture in a foot, suffered in the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros, which deprived her of tennis for eight weeks. 

Because of her backhand in the second round at the US Open, the 19-year-old will drop to around No. 40 in the world next Monday.

“We try to keep making decisions as if we don't have any money, pointed out Jorge Fernandez. Instead, we try to find the right solutions, because money is not going to fix everything. » 

The Subway restaurant chain has also recruited the tennis player from Laval to promote its sandwiches.

His condo in Miami

But still, this grant and this attention from sponsors made their lives easier. She allowed Leylah to buy a condo in Miami, near the airport, where she currently lives with her family. 

They previously resided in Boynton Beach. Sometimes the Fernandez clan had to drive an hour and a half in traffic to reach the training grounds or to catch the plane before a tournament.

“I wanted that 'It thus builds its credit, that it empowers itself financially, underlined Mr. Fernandez. But she's a family girl, so she wanted us all to be together. At least for the moment. Because sometimes I hear her and her sister making plans to live together!”

A year after her final in New York, when she was ranked 73rd in the world and relatively unknown to the general public, Leylah is now one of the in-demand players on the WTA. 

Is it proud, dad Fernandez, to see the evolution of his daughter? Her eyes fill with tears when you ask her the question. 

” She has changed and I find it very beautiful, said Jorge Fernandez, suppressing his emotions. 

“It's special and completely crazy what we're going through. We sail on our little boat through all this world. I'm happy with his results, but for me, that's not the important thing. It's really her transformation, from little teenager to young lady. »

A hitting partner rather than a trainer

Little Leylah in her arms of his father and trainer Jorge Fernandez.

When Leylah Fernandez was young, her father Jorge made her a promise. One day, with him as her coach, she would be in the top 30, or even the top 20 ​​of the WTA.

Today he can say “mission accomplished”. Although her second-round loss in New York last week will drop her next Monday to around 40th in the world rankings, the 19-year-old has long hovered around 15th this season. 

However, it was not tennis that fascinated Mr. Fernandez, when he was younger. It was soccer, a sport he practiced, before becoming a coach.

But, he believes, there are many similarities between the two disciplines. He adds that he learned his tennis skills, going for his WTA certification two years ago. 

“ I also have resources in Switzerland that help me analyze his opponents , he explained. I prepare a plan before each match, which I simplify to him in two or three points. Leylah is used to this very precise process. »

A physio too

Last year, Jorge Fernandez said he was still interested in adding another coach to the team, in order to delegate tasks to him and help his daughter progress even more. 

He always claims to seek. But he explains that the clan prefers, for the moment, to surround itself with a training partner, which is not always easy to find for a left-handed person. 

Also, the stress fracture in the right foot suffered by Leylah at Roland Garros forced them to seek the services of a physical therapist, who traveled with them to Toronto, Cincinnati and New York. 

Because after eight weeks of inactivity, ” she suffered a lot after the matches “, underlined Mr. Fernandez. 

And each time he mentions the possibility of taking a another coach on the team, he says he is facing a refusal from his daughter. 

“ I am someone who is extremely demanding, both of myself and of others, he mentioned. I'm convinced that if you want to be number one in the world — and that's Leylah's goal — you have no choice but to be that way. »

«  It's not that we don't have a choice. On the contrary, he added with a smile, who wouldn't want to train Leylah? But we've already achieved a lot of what people expected.”

An exclamation point?

After his daughter had been sidelined for two months, her dad didn't expect great results for the hard court return. 

He believes she is still looking for constancy. But he believes that this early exit to New York can allow them to work harder in training. 

And, perhaps, put “an exclamation point on this season”. ;”, with good performances at his next two events, in October in San Diego and Guadalajara. 

“ I think that with all the challenges we have been through, we can use these two tournaments to make this year an extraordinary year,” he said.