Fernandez feeling it in dream US Open run

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When Leylah Fernandez wins a pivotal point at the US Open - and she's won enough of them to become the tournament's youngest semi-finalist since Maria Sharapova in 2005 - the teenager with the exciting game and enthusiasm to match raises her right fist or windmills her arms, firing up herself and the crowd.

She then turns her back to the court and her opponent, faces the wall behind the baseline for a few moments, gathers herself and repeats whatever that day's mantra of choice is.

During her 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5) quarter-final victory over fifth-seeded seed Elina Svitolina in Arthur Ashe Stadium, which followed wins over past US Open champions and former No.1s Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber, Fernandez focused on self-belief.

"I was only thinking of trusting myself, trusting my game. After every point, win or lose, I would always tell myself, 'Trust my game. Go for my shots. Just see where the ball goes," said Fernandez, who turned 19 a daye earlier and had never been past the third round in her previous half-dozen major appearances.

"I see what I'm feeling. I see if there's one phrase that really catches me or that makes me more motivated than the others. I just keep it throughout the match."

It's working and the New York crowds are adopting the neighbour from Canada as one of their own - although the 73rd-ranked Fernandez actually is based in Florida after being born in Montreal to a Filipino Canadian mother and an Ecuadorian father.

Fernandez's father is also her coach but isn't in New York; he stayed home for what Fernandez called "personal reasons" and is offering tips in daily phone conversations.

"I called him right after the match, when I went to the locker room," she said.

"He honestly told me that I put him through hell and back with this match."

And the spectators loved every minute of it.

"Thanks to you, I was able to push through today," she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test against a player who is ranked higher and has more experience success on the sport's biggest stages.

On Thursday she will play world No.2 and now tournament favourite Aryna Sabalenka, who swept aside French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova 6-1 6-4.

Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears.

It seems to be working, as the Belarusian made her maiden grand slam semi-final at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in The Big Apple.

"It means a lot. The US Open is one of my favourite slams and I'm really enjoying my game here," Sabalenka said.

Krejcikova was the only woman in the last eight at the US Open with a major title, her exit ensuring a new slam champion will be crowned on Saturday.

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