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The Journal in Australia: Leila Fernandez and her father believe they have found a rare pearl

Melbourne, Australia | As his daughter Leila hit one of the Melbourne Park training grounds, dressed in long sleeves to make up for the extraordinary 20 degrees that prevailed in South Australia on Sunday, Jorge Fernandez accompanied Newspaper to the player’s center.

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It was 36 degrees on Saturday [dimanche]It’s the opposite, he says while walking. The weather here will be a real challenge for the athletes. »

If Mr. Fernandez can walk away from the field while his daughter trains there on the eve of the first major tournament of the season (and talk a little about the weather in the meantime), it’s because the family has added a new coach to their clan in the past couple of months.

The search was long. It took a year and a half. Jorge Fernandez never hides it: he is demanding.

“I wanted someone who would give 100%. I won’t name names, it’s not my style. But in the past, we sometimes worked with people who gave 70%, and for them tennis was work. While it’s his night, tennis is her dream,” he explains.

Fernandez crossed paths with Julian Alonso in tournaments for a few years. The discussions never deepened. Alonso, himself a former world number 30, has been linked with fellow left-back Arantxa Rous.

“We took each other in,” says Lilah’s father. I’m not the type to snatch a coach from another player. »

Dating in miami

At the end of 2022, Jorge Fernandez met the Spaniard again, this time in Miami, where the family now lives.

Alonso settled there as well, which made his collaboration with Ross even more complicated, according to Mr. Fernandez.

” [Cet ajout à notre équipe]It was not planned, Fr. assures. Over the course of discussions, we decided to give it a try. »

“I really like Julien’s philosophy,” he continues. He demands more from his player, he demands more quality, more volume. It’s Spanish style! But he also has the smarts of the game and point building. »

Theoretically, Alonso is in Australia for a tryout with Quebec, who has primarily coached her father since the start of her career. But already, Fernandez and Alonso are working on plans for the rest of the year.

“He’s a little direct, a little like me,” Jorge Fernandez adds with a smirk. Leela spent some time with him and says we are like twins! »

Lille also made the trip to Auckland at the start of the year with Alonso as the only coach in his box.

The 20-year-old reached the quarterfinals at this tournament, where she defeated 90th seed Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium, and then the doubles final.

Build a team

This new bond, if it continues, will ensure that Jorge Fernandez will travel less with his daughter. It will focus on the most important tournaments.

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He also wants to take some time to surround the young athlete well. “I will start forming a team that will take care of the physical side, nutrition and physiotherapy in order to get all the specialists we need to be successful in the next 12 to 15 years.”

“Lila is ready to go from ‘dad coach’ to having a team around her,” said Fernandez.

These additions are made possible by the young athlete’s financial gains over the past two years, both on the field and through her many sponsors.

According to a list compiled by the media Sportico In October, Lilah earned approximately $8.6 million between May 2021 and May 2022.

However, to keep reaping the gains, you must be reaping the wins. Of course, Jorge’s dad has some prejudice. But he says he is convinced his daughter can have an “exceptional season”.

“She’s in incredible physical shape,” he says. People in the ring are telling us that. »

In search of stability

Due to a stress fracture in the foot that Leila suffered at Roland-Garros that forced her to sideline the field for two months, the latest campaign has not lived up to the clan’s expectations.

Quebec fell down the rankings after being eliminated in the second round at the US Open, reaching the final in 2021. It was on the brink of the top 10 last August; There she is now, 40.

“I didn’t pay much attention to the arrangement,” says Jorge Fernandez. What I would like to see, at this point in his career, is more consistency in tournaments, rather than having some excellent tournaments and some very difficult tournaments. »

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That quest for consistency will resume Monday at 7pm ET, when Lavaloise faces France’s Alize Cornet, 34 in the world, in the first round in Melbourne.