“I think I just understood that there is a process, and it's still a long year, very long year, and I just need to calm myself down, calm my mind down, and just accept that things are going to be tough,” Fernandez said of managing expectations after her star turn at the 2021 US Open.
“Things are going to go sideways in a match, in a practice, and just understand that I have more tools in my toolbox that I can use and just find solutions.”
Gauff, the first player to reach two Grand Slam quarter-finals before turning 19 since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006, is the more experienced clay-courter of the two. The Floridian enters the quarter-finals with a 25-9 lifetime record on the surface.
'I still have something to prove'
Fernandez is more of a late bloomer on clay - this year at Roland-Garros she has won four clay-court matches in succession for the first time in her career to advance her lifetime record on the surface to 11-7.
It is a recent development that inspired her loyal fans to tag her with the nickname of “Clay-lah”.
No matter the surface, Fernandez approaches her tennis with a fastidiousness not normally seen among the teenage set - it’s rare to see someone so young take her craft so seriously.
Perhaps it is the chip on her shoulder that makes her one of the toughest outs in all of tennis.
“Every time I step out on the court I still have something to prove,” Fernandez says, defiantly. “I still have that mindset that I'm the underdog. I'm still young, I still have a lot to show to the people.”