We now know when we’ll see Leylah Fernandez back on the tennis courts. The 19-year-old, who hasn’t played since Indian Wells in October, is set to return to action in the WT 500 Adelaide International, which will be played the first week of January. The tournament will serve as preparation for the first Grand Slam of the season, which will also be played in Australia, starting January 17.
Fernandez, who had a breakthrough 2021 season where she won her first WTA tournament, reached the US Open Final, and finished the season 24 in the WTA ranking after starting the year ranked 88th, has been training hard as she prepares to improve even further in 2022. The Australian Open should be a good place to start taking steps forward, as Fernandez has never won a match there.
In fact, before her 2021 US Open run, Fernandez had only advanced past the first round in one Grand Slam, the 2020 French Open.
The Adelaide International will be filled with some of the biggest names in tennis, as Fernandez will be joined by world number one Ashleigh Barty, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, Coco Gauff, Victoria Azarenka, Sofia Kenin, Petra Kvitova, and 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek.
But Fernandez, who beat three top-5 players on her remarkable US Open 2021 run, doesn’t seem intimidated by the big names in front of her. If anything, she just seems happy to be starting a new season that can, hopefully, be as amazing as the last
Sometimes, you get to meet your heroes and have a conversation with them. That’s what happened to Leylah Fernandez , who got to meet one of tennis’ greats during the Sports Illustrated Awards, which took place this week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Florida. And it was made even better than that because said icon Billie Jean King actually recognized Fernandez.
King, who received the Sports Illustrated 2021 Muhammad Ali Legacy Award during the event, posted the picture with Fernandez herself. The award celebrates individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has impacted the world.
“Happy to be in the company of so many terrific athletes tonight, including [Leylah Fernandez],” King wrote on Twitter. She also shared another picture with Fernandez and Sloane Stephens, which she captioned “two of many women tennis players who are living our dream.”
King is as well known for advocating for gender equality in sports as she is for her long and storied tennis career. She won 39 Grand Slams (12 in singles, 16 in women’s doubles, and 11 in mixed doubles) and is widely regarded as one of the best players to have ever played the game.
Fernandez reached the US Open Final in 2021, for the first time in her career, and rose from the 88th ranked player in the world to the 24th. She was also recently named the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year.