If there's anything 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez proved day after day in her incredible US Open fortnight, it's that she is a fierce competitor. That's what it takes to defeat three Top 5 players and a former champion in four consecutive three-set matches to earn a spot in your first major final.
The flip side for the Canadian teen? There is no denying that her 6-4, 6-3 loss to Britain's Emma Raducanu is going to hurt.
"I think this loss, I'm going to carry it for a very long time," Fernandez told reporters after the match. "I think it will motivate me to do better in training, better for the next opportunity I get.
"But, no, I'm very happy with myself, with the way I competed, and the play I played, the way I acted on court the past two weeks. I've improved a lot not only tennis-wise but emotionally and mentally. I'm happy. Next year hopefully it will be just as good."
As Fernandez has told reporters all tournament, she's been knocked down before. She's experienced the adversity of being told she was too small, too underpowered and simply not good enough to achieve her lofty dreams of becoming a professional tennis player.
Fernandez: “A teacher told me to stop playing tennis, you'll never make it, just focus on school.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) September 10, 2021
"I'm glad she told me that b/c every day I have that phrase in my head saying: I'm going to keep going, push through, prove to her everything I've dreamed of I'm going to achieve."
Fernandez spent her New York fortnight quieting all the doubters. With wins over defending champion and World No.3 Naomi Osaka, 2016 champion and former No.1 Angelique Kerber, Olympic bronze medalist and No.5 Elina Svitolina and World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, Fernandez proved her grit and versatility in one of the most difficult runs to a major final in the past decade.
"I can't decide which one is going to be in the highlight reel," Fernandez said when asked which of her victories she might consider her signature win. "I can just say I'm proud of myself and happy with the way I fought.
"Naomi, she's won so many Grand Slams, she's been in this stage for a while. I'm sure many more to come. I'm just happy with the way I played. Against Kerber, she's an extremely great fighter, a great player. She's a great example to look up to. I just fought for every point. Same thing with Svitolina and Sabalenka."
Throughout the tournament, Fernandez has been adamant that her wins and progress have not surprised her. She has put too much work into her career to be surprised by her level. But the soft-spoken Canadian did admit to being surprised by one thing: just how fun it was to engage with the New York crowd.
"There's one thing that really surprised me was that the more that I'm more outgoing on court and that I try to get the crowd involved, the more I'm playing well," Fernandez said. "Usually when I was younger, I'd try to be as calm as possible, just like Federer.
"I'm glad that I've discovered that of myself, that I play a lot better when I'm more outgoing and when I'm using the crowd to my advantage."
During her poised and emotional on-court remarks, Fernandez asked for the mic back to take a moment to salute the city of New York on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
"Obviously I don't know much about what really happened, but with the few information that I do have, I know that New York has suffered a lot the past years when it did happen," Fernandez said. "I just wanted to let them know that they're so strong, they're so resilient. They're just incredible.
"Just having them here happy, lively, just going back to the way they were, having my back during these tough moments, has made me stronger and has made me believe in myself a lot more."
Looking ahead, Fernandez says her New York run will only stoke her hunger for success. With her US Open run, Fernandez will rise to a career-high No.27 on Monday.
"I don't think it will change my life that much," Fernandez said. "I'm very lucky to have a great support team and a great family to keep me grounded.
"With these wins and this loss today, it definitely stings, but it will just make me want to work harder and stronger, just come back to every tournament with the same hunger that I came into this tournament."