Leylah and her clan in search of the rare pearl

TORONTO | The Fernandez clan has been looking to expand the team for a year by adding a coach who could support Jorge, Leylah’s father. A complicated quest, explained the Quebecer on Saturday.

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“We are looking, but we are very patient,” explained Fernandez, in a press conference held on the sidelines of the National Bank Open. We want to find someone good, but who will also fit in well with the team. »

The Fernandez are a tightly knit clan. For almost two years, the Frenchman Romain Deridder joined their entourage, but the union ended in July 2021.

Since then, Leylah and her father have been looking for the rare pearl. The 19-year-old player, 13th seed in Toronto, says they want to find someone who will be able to reconcile with the particularities in her game and understand it well.

The fact that she is left-handed, in particular, but also that she plays “a little different” tennis.

“I am the type of player who opens the field a lot [avec ses coups], she pointed out. Finding the perfect coach for us will be difficult and time consuming. So we will be very patient. »

” One of the best “

In Toronto, on her return to competition after a two-month hiatus forced by her stress fracture in her right foot, Fernandez will be accompanied by her father, a hitting partner, her younger sister Bianca and other family members.

If Jorge sometimes missed certain tournaments in the past – he was notably absent when his daughter reached the final in New York last year – this is no longer the case this year.

This scenario is perfectly suited to the original Lavalloise. “While waiting to have another coach, I know that I can always count on my father,” she said. He is one of the best coaches I have had. »

“He takes the time to prepare my schedule, my training, she added. And not only those of tennis, but also the physical and mental preparation. He helps me get through the tough times. »

Less impressed this time

Leylah was only 16 years old when she was last in Toronto. She was ranked 260th in the world and had lost sharply in her first match, ahead of Marie Bouzkova, a Czech qualifier ranked 91st.

“A lot has happened since! recognized the Quebecer. I remember at that time, I was impressed when I saw Venus Williams pass by me. I was dazzled to see these big stars! »

The little player had also played doubles alongside the Romanian Simona Halep.

They had lost in the first round, but Fernandez especially remembers the nervousness that inhabited her when she jumped on the ground alongside the former world number 1.

“I didn’t know how to talk to her, she remembered laughing, but luckily she had helped me a lot. »

►Leylah will start her tournament on Monday evening, against a qualifier. Serena Williams and her sister Venus, who received passes from the organizers, will also be in action that day.

A boot rather than Wimbledon

TORONTO | Driven by her superb journey to the quarter-finals at Roland-Garros, Leylah Fernandez dreamed of Wimbledon.

The 19-year-old Quebecer instead ended up with a walking boot on her right foot, the result of her stress fracture suffered on the ocher of Paris.

“The last few weeks have been very, very difficult,” acknowledged Canada’s top-ranked player. I thought I was a patient girl, to accept this period of break, but I realized that I was less than I thought. »

“It was a rollercoaster of emotions,” she added. At first, I felt sad. I was heartbroken. »

She wanted to play

Since the start of her professional career, Leylah had never experienced such a long period of inactivity.

“In the weeks following my injury, I was trying to pick up my racquet and go play,” she said. But my father said to me: “No! Do not do that !” »

The young athlete finally resigned herself to storing her racquets in a closet and only taking them out when she recovered.

TV and crime novels

Until she could get back to training a few days ago, Leylah traded them for TV shows and detective novels.

And also, for family time, which she has little when she travels the planet to play tennis.

“It was my consolation, to spend time with my loved ones,” she pointed out.

” Like new “

But here she is back, with a right foot “like new”. After this absence from the pitch, Fernandez says she is extremely motivated, especially since she will be playing in front of family and friends.

Because, if she grew up in Laval, before her clan moved to Florida, Leylah has several members of her family in Toronto.

“Many are there. Uncles, aunts, cousins, listed the 13th seed. I hope to have some time to see them! »

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