Former tennis great and career Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova has provided a positive pep talk to Canadian prodigy and U.S. Open finalist Leylah Fernandez. The first Russian to ever hold the #1 women’s singles ranking has advised Fernandez to bounce back from her latest setback, starting this weeked at Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open.
“She gave me some pretty good advice,” Fernandez, 19, told Reuters “I don’t want to disclose any of it because it’s very personal for me. She’s an amazing person.
If you look at the tennis head to head stats for the upcoming tournament, you have to consider Fernandez to be among the favorites at the WTA-1000 competition, despite her loss to British teenager Emma Raducanu at the U.S. Open last month.
Sharapova, 34, was ranked world No. 1 in singles by the WTA on five separate occasions, for a total of 21 weeks. She went 645-171 over the course of her storied career, winning five Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Silver medal. She’s a great role model for any young tennis player to have, and she crossed paths with Fernandez at the Met Gala a couple weeks ago in New York City.
Fernandez, who won the Monterrey Open in March, discussed what Sharapova said to her, but refused to get into specifics, as it is certainly not in the interests of any top tier elite athlete to give away potential specifics regarding approaches, strategies and techniques.
“She told me her own experience and the way that she was able to bounce back and she’s just a great person,” Fernandez said of Sharapova.
“Great inspiration to kind of look up to.”
The 28th ranked player in the world holds the 23rd seed, and first round bye at Indian Head, in an event that is considered by many to be just below a Grand Slam event. At the Monterrey, she beat one of the most high profile players in the world in defending champion Naomi Osaka.
Her prolific tournament run also included a victory over three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber and the player ranked #2 in the world at the time: Aryna Sabalenka.
It’s safe to say that she just might become The Next Big Thing in women’s tennis.
She credits her team and support staff.
“I’m very lucky to have a great team around me to just let me focus on my craft, on my tennis, and not be overwhelmed with everything that’s going right now,” said Fernandez, who echoed the sentiments of any hard-core competitor who is looking to put recent defeat behind them: “Honestly I just can’t wait to be back on the tennis court competing again.”
With that winning attitude, and a top notch mentor, Fernandez is really going to go places.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.
He co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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