MELBOURNE, Australia | While her daughter Leylah hit one of the Melbourne Park training grounds, dressed in long clothes to compensate for the unusual 20 degrees that reigned on Sunday in South Australia, Jorge Fernández accompanied her The newspaper to the center of the player.
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“It was 36 degrees on Saturday, and [dimanche], it’s the opposite, he says as he walks. The weather here will be a real challenge for the athletes. »
If Mr. Fernández can afford to step away from the court while his daughter practices there on the eve of the first big tournament of the season (and chat a little about the weather at the same time), it’s because the family has brought on a new coach. . to his clan in the last two months.
The search was long. It took a year and a half. Jorge Fernández never hides it: he is demanding.
“I wanted someone who was going to give 100%. I won’t say names, it’s not my style. But in the past, we sometimes worked with people who gave 70%, for whom tennis was a job. Whereas for Leylah, tennis is her dream,” she explains.
The one from Fernández had crossed paths with Julián Alonso in tournaments for a few years. The discussions were never deep. Alonso, himself a former world No. 30, was linked with fellow lefty Arantxa Rus.
“We greet each other,” says Leylah’s father. I am not one of those who snatch a coach from another player. »
Leylah Fernández trained earlier this week under the watchful eye of her trainer Julián Alonso.
At the end of 2022, Jorge Fernández met the Spaniard again, this time in Miami, where the family now lives.
Alonso had also settled there, which made his collaboration with Rus more complicated, according to Fernández.
” [Cet ajout à notre équipe], it was not planned, emphasizes the father. In the course of discussions, we decided to give it a try. »
“I really like Julian’s philosophy,” he continues. He asks his player for a little more, he asks for more quality, more volume. It’s the Spanish style! But he also has the intelligence of the game, of building points. »
Alonso is theoretically in Australia for a trial with the Quebecois, who has been trained primarily by her father since the start of her career. But already, Fernández and Alonso are hatching plans for the rest of the year.
“He’s a bit direct, a bit like me,” adds Jorge Fernández, with a smile. Leylah spent time with him and she says we’re like twins! »
Leylah also made the trip to Auckland earlier in the year with Alonso as the sole trainer in her box.
The 20-year-old made it to the quarterfinals in singles at this tournament, where she was defeated by Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure, ranked 90th, and then the final in doubles.
set up a team
This new association, if it lasts, will ensure that Jorge Fernández travels less with his daughter. It will focus on the biggest tournaments.
He also wants to take time to get around the young athlete well. “I am going to start putting together a team that will deal with the physical side, nutrition, physical therapy to have all the specialists we need to be successful in the next 12 to 15 years. »
“Leylah is ready to transition from ‘coaching dad’ to having a team around her,” Fernandez said.
These additions were made possible by the financial gains the young athlete has achieved over the past two years, both on the field and through her many sponsors.
According to a list compiled by the media Sports in October, Leylah earned approximately $8.6 million between May 2021 and May 2022.
However, to continue reaping profits, you must reap victories. Of course, Dad Jorge has a certain bias. But he says he is convinced that his daughter can make “an extraordinary season.”
“She is in incredible physical shape,” he says. The people of the circuit tell us. »
In search of consistency
Undermined by the stress fracture in the foot that Leylah suffered at Roland-Garros and which forced her to stay two months away from the courts, the last campaign did not live up to the expectations of the clan.
The Quebecer fell in the rankings after being eliminated in the second round of the US Open, where she had reached the final in 2021. She was on the brink of the top 10 last August; here she is now 40th.
“I never paid much attention to qualifying,” says Jorge Fernández. What I would like to see, at this stage of his career, is more consistency in tournaments, instead of having some great ones and some very difficult ones. »
This quest for consistency will resume on Monday at 7 pm ET, when La Lavalloise takes on France’s Alizé Cornet, ranked 34th in the world, in the first round in Melbourne.
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