US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez calls out Lionel Messi at Billie Jean King Cup

Leylah Fernandez took a break from tennis to show off her impressive football skills before confidently laying down the gauntlet to none other than Lionel Messi. The former US Open finalist is currently in Seville helping her native Canada in their quest to win the Billie Jean King Cup.

The Great White North got their campaign off to a flying start on Wednesday when 18-year-old Marina Stakusic cruised to victory against Spain’s Rebeka Masarova 6-3, 6-1. That win was followed up by Fernandez who had to dig deep to see off Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (9-7) in a tense battle that took almost three hours to complete.

It is the first time that Canada has beaten five-time champions Spain since 1972. But in between practice sessions, Fernandez showed that her ball skills are not limited to the tennis court by demonstrating her talent with a football on the side of the court.

The 21-year-old shared a photograph of herself performing keep-ups on Instagram alongside the caption: “I’m ready @intermiamicf,” suggesting she has what it takes to represent the Major League Soccer outfit.

And in a follow-up post, she challenged the Florida club’s global superstar Lionel Messi to some personal game time.

“@leomessi maybe some 1on1? A girl can dream,” she wrote.

Fernandez’ love of the beautiful game is easy to understand, given that her father is a former professional footballer and it is for that reason that he enjoys representing her country at tennis so much.

Speaking during a press conference held before the event got underway, she said: “I’m always excited to be part of this Canada team. My dad, who is a football player, always said the biggest pride of any athlete is to represent their country and to have the country’s name on their back.

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“Every time I step on court, I always just want to fight, be the best version of myself and give Team Canada a chance to win.”

Fernandez reached the US Open final in 2021 at the age of 19 where she was beaten by British teenager Emma Raducanu in straight sets. Although the Canadian fell at the final hurdle in New York, she beat three top-five players on her way to the final, including the defending champion Naomi Osaka.

Fernadez reached a career-high ranking of World No 13 in August 2022 but is currently ranked 35th, with one title to her name this year.

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