Leylah Fernandez Is 'Ready' to Get Back on Tennis Court at Australian Open After 'Surreal' Year

The Canadian tennis player is Lululemon's newest ambassador and is helping to introduce the brand's first-ever tennis collection

Leylah Fernandez
Leylah Fernandez. Photo: Lululemon

The first Grand Slam event of the calendar year is just days away, and young tennis phenom Leylah Fernandez has her racket ready.

"I worked really hard during my preseason and I am ready to showcase it on the court," Fernandez, who chatted with PEOPLE while talking about becoming Lululemon's newest brand ambassador, says. "I took about a week off and went to Turks & Caicos with my family right after Indian Wells [in October]. It was such an amazing holiday but after a couple of days I was itching to get back on the court."

The 19-year-old, who hails from Canada, says she's "really excited for the fan environment in Australia because we didn't get to have that last year with COVID-19," while at the same time "appreciative of all the efforts Tennis Australia has done for us in order to put on the event during such a difficult time."

Fernandez had a breakout year in 2021, to put it simply. She made her professional debut in 2019, just a few years before becoming one-half of the first all-teenage U.S. Open women's singles final since the 1999 tournament. Though she ultimately lost the 2021 open match to Emma Raducanu, 6-4, 6-3, her journey from unseeded competitor to near-champion drew headlines.

Leylah Fernandez
Leylah Fernandez. Lululemon

"I feel like I ended my 2021 season learning a lot about myself as a player and a person," Fernandez reflects. "I am really proud of myself for finding the fire within me to fight through the tough moments against really talented players. I feel like my matches this past year has prepared me well for more break-out moments this year."

Moving from watching tennis icons to playing them "can be surreal sometimes," she admits. And the teen is still learning about herself as both a person and an athlete.

"I'm finding out who Leylah Fernandez is," she tells PEOPLE. "I am finding my voice. My love for the game and this sport is continuing to grow and I am growing along with it. I am finding out what is most important to me and the type of partnerships I want to work on."

One of those partnerships is with Lululemon. As an ambassador, Fernandez is helping introduce the brand's first-ever tennis collection, launching this spring.

"Lululemon puts thought and care into every piece of product for me," she says. "The quality is the absolute best and I trust the team to provide me so I can perform at my highest level on the court."

When she's off the court, she says she loves Lululemons pullovers and fleece zip-up jackets — it's all about loungewear. And for matches and practice, she tends toward crop tops ("in every color") and the Play off the Pleats skirts.

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Working with Lululemon also aligns with Fernandez's top priorities for 2022: "Stay healthy and take care of my body."

"I want to be sure I compete in every match and am proud of my tennis game," she says. "I'd love to continue to move up in the rankings and perform well at Grand Slams too, of course."

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