"SHE'S got Filipino blood in her. It's so beautiful."
To set the record straight, Leylah Fernandez' father, Jorge, sat down with some of the reporters on the eve of the final of the 2021 US Open to recognize his daughter's roots.
Recently, the 19-year-old, unseeded and unknown, won the hearts of many tennis fans around the world after a sensational string of victories in the New York City-based Grand Slam.
To earn her spot in the finals, she has beaten defending champion Naomi Osaka, 2016 winner Angelique Kerber, fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina, and World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka.
Among those cheering their hearts out for Leylah are sports-loving Filipinos, many of whom take pride in the Pinoy descent of the young star.
But truth be told, how deep is Leylah's Philippine roots?
Her mom is a Filipina-Canadian
Her mother, Irene Exevea, was born in Canada to both Filipino parents. She's been to the Philippines only twice in her life.
In a quick interview with Dyan Castillejo, who's covering the Grand Slam live, Irene revealed that Leylah recognizes her Filipino blood.
"She adores her culture. She's born in Canada, but her mom's Filipino, she embraces it," she said.
She calls her grandparents "Lolo" and "Lola"
Her mom's father hails from Ilocos. And even if Leylah doesn't speak Tagalog, she does call her grandparents with these terms of endearment.
She embodies the food-loving trait of Filipinos
Fernandez, born and raised in Canada with Filipino and Ecuadorian roots, embraces the food-loving side of her Pinoy blood.
In a post-game interview earlier this week, she acknowledged how his grandfather breaks out his cooking skills whenever he visits her home in Canada.
"I don’t know much about the Filipino culture but I do know that my Lolo, he cooks amazing, so when I get back to Canada in Toronto when I visit, he’s gonna make really nice food, especially Filipino dish[es] because I do miss it," she said.
Even her Latino dad is thankful for her newfound fans in the PH
In the eve of her finals game, her dad and coach, Jorge, revealed to the media he's glad that Leylah has gained fans in the Philippines.
"I truly appreciate the Filipino community backing up Leylah," Jorge said. "She's got Filipino blood in her. It's so beautiful. I'm glad that they've embraced her. I hope that relationship can only grow between her and her community.
Leylah herself yearns to explore her Filipino roots
"I can't wait to know more about the culture in the future. Thank you so much, I'm so happy that everyone in the Philippines is cheering for me and supporting me," she said in a post-game interview.
Even if she represents Canada, Leylah acknowledges her Filipino descent as much as the Filipino community takes pride in her feat in the big stage.
As they say, "Blood is thicker than water."
Fernandez plays her championship match against British Emma Raducano, 18, on Sunday morning (tentatively 4:00 AM, Philippine time).
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