Leylah Fernandez (308233)
Credit: Wikipedia

This year’s staging of the US Open tennis tournament hasn’t been favorable for American players. For the first time since the event commenced in 1881, no American man or woman singles entrant made it to the quarterfinals.

The 2021 Open also hasn’t seen many of the sport’s biggest names reach the latter stages, with fresh faces such as Leylah Fernandez garnering much of the spotlight. Djokovic Novak, the men’s No. 1 ranked player in the world, is one of the few exceptions.

The three-time US Open champion rolled into the quarterfinals seeking a men’s record 21st Grand Slam tournament win with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Jenson Brooksby on Monday night at the iconic Arthur Ashe Stadium, located at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. Brooksby was the lone remaining American singles player before being ousted by the Serbian Djokovic.

The last time Djokovic stood atop the US Open field was in 2018. He went up against Matteo Berrettini of Italy last night (Wednesday) for a placing in the semifinals. The two squared off in the Wimbledon final in July with Djokovic emerging with a 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win.

All-time greats such as Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal did not compete at the US Open this summer due to injuries. Reducing the star power, two of the three world’s top ranked women’s players, No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and No. 3 Naomi Osaka, suffered early exits.

Barty, who earned her first Wimbledon title last month, was knocked out by American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 (5) in the third round. Osaka, the 2020 US Open champion, was also defeated in Round 3, losing to the effervescent Canadian Fernandez 5-7, 7-6, (7-2), 6-4. Afterwards, the 23-year-old Osaka, who has been publicly transparent and emotional regarding her battle with mental health, said she may step away from the sport for an unspecified amount of time

“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while,” said a tearful Osaka, who was born in Japan and has lived in the United States since the age of three. The usually composed Osaka was demonstrably unnerved in her match with Fernandez, a 19-year-old from Montreal, Canada, slamming her racquet on the court multiple times.

“I’m not really sure why,” she responded when asked what triggered her actions. “I was telling myself to be calm, but I feel like maybe there was a boiling point.” The four-time Grand Slam winner acknowledged not being able to reconcile her state of mind. “Normally, I feel like I like challenges,” she said. “But recently I feel very anxious when things don’t go my way…”

Fernandez surprisingly has had her way en route to becoming a fan favorite. On Tuesday, the unseeded sensation shocked No. 5 seed Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) in their quarterfinals pairing to crash the semis. She will face women’s world No. 2 ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus today.