'Not allowed': Shock controversy erupts in US Open semi-final

·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Leylah Fernandez, pictured here in action during the US Open semi-final.
Leylah Fernandez was accused of receiving coaching in the US Open semi-final. Image: ESPN/Getty

An ugly coaching controversy has taken some shine off Leylah Fernandez's extraordinary run into the US Open final.

The 19-year-old Canadian continued her giant-killing run on Thursday, upsetting World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka to seal her place in the final at Flushing Meadows.

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However the victory didn't come without controversy, with American tennis great Pam Shriver accusing Fernandez of receiving coaching during the match.

Fernandez and Sabalenka were locked in a tense battle early in the second set when controversy erupted.

During the fifth game of the second set and the score locked at 2-2, Shriver noticed that Fernandez's coach and physio may have been breaking the rules.

Under one of tennis' most divisive rules, coaches aren't allowed to offer any form of coaching during matches.

Sitting court-side for ESPN, Shriver said: "There is a lot of 'third base' coaching going on. Fernandez is up the end near her player's box and the umpire needs to look over there."

Shriver said the coach was telling Fernandez to "calm down" and using "definite signals".

"Three points ago there was a clear 'calm down' with the hands," Shriver added.

"I mean you think about what happened here three years ago

"Any kind of hand signal that puts a message across is coaching, it wasn't encouragement."

Shriver was of course referring to the code violation that Serena Williams received in the infamous 2018 US Open final.

Williams was completely derailed against Naomi Osaka when she was hit with a warning for allegedly receiving coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou.

After a heated argument with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, Williams was eventually hit with a point penalty when she received two more code violations.

Shriver also took to social media earlier in the tournament to claim Fernandez was receiving coaching, while fans joined in on calling out the apparent rule violation.

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Leylah Fernandez storms into US Open final

Fernandez had earlier won a tie-breaker in the first set before prevailing 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4.

The 19-year-old Canadian won the final four points of the first-set tie-breaker to overcome a brutal start from Sabalenka.

Sabalenka appeared as if she would overpower Fernandez early, winning 12 of the first 14 points and racing to a 3-0 lead in just eight minutes.

But Fernandez steadied herself and then took advantage of some shaky play in the tie-breaker by Sabalenka, including an overhead she shanked far out of bounds and a double fault.

The Belarusian managed to bounce back and send the match to a third set, winning the second 6-4.

Leylah Fernandez, pictured here during her semi-final clash with Aryna Sabalenka at the US Open.
Leylah Fernandez celebrates during her semi-final clash with Aryna Sabalenka at the US Open. (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)

However the World No.2 tensed up while serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the third, Fernandez winning the game to love to book her place in the final.

Sabalenka also lost in the Wimbledon semis in her only other major semi-final.

Fernandez is the second 19-year-old Canadian to play in the women’s final at Flushing Meadows in the last three years after Bianca Andreescu won the title in 2019.

She has knocked out past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber along with No.5 seed Elina Svitolina during her insane run.

with Associated Press

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