As the newest member of the Morgan Stanley team—and our partner in our new Racket Drop program, which provides tennis gear to underserved communities—this young tennis phenom brings her focus and determination to the role of promoting greater access and equity in youth sports.
Leylah Fernandez will be the first to tell you that her father, who was born in Ecuador, has introduced her to whole new worlds, including sharing his love of soccer, which he played semi-professionally (she roots for both Real Madrid and Manchester City) and his obsession with 80s rock and pop music, a passion she pursues to this day. “The first song my dad ever played for me from that genre was Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself.’ I’ll never forget it. I just fell in love with that music.”
But it was the moment that he brought home a pink tennis racket decorated with flowers that he set his young daughter, then age 6, on a course for life. What is this thing with strings? She remembers thinking at the time.
Now 19, Fernandez is using a much more high-tech racket than the one her dad gave her to win matches all over the world since making her professional debut in 2019. One highlight? Her stunning run-up to the 2021 U.S. Open Finals, during which she beat three top-five players, including defending champion Naomi Osaka.
She’s quickly built on that success, having defended her first WTA title at the Monterrey Open during an incredible five-match point championship game, climbed to a career-high ranking of #13 in the world and beat Olympic Champion Belinda Bencic in the French Open before losing in the quarterfinals. All before she turned 20.
That sort of grit and grace makes her a perfect brand ambassador for Morgan Stanley. As part of her responsibilities in that role, Fernandez promotes our Everyone Deserves a Shot initiative, which works to level the playing field for young people by providing them with a range of services from diverse coaches to sporting equipment to more opportunities to compete.
And she’s proud to be joining us in that endeavor. “Morgan Stanley has a longstanding commitment to supporting their communities, which is something I am passionate about. It’s a lesson my parents have taught me from the very beginning. That’s our motto in my family—you gotta give back,” she says. “I look forward to continuing to partner with the Morgan Stanley team in expanding access to the game of tennis, especially among underrepresented communities and diverse youth.”
“Helping pave a path for the next generation of trailblazers is a priority we share with Leylah,” says Alice Milligan, Chief Marketing Officer at Morgan Stanley. “She inspires the next generation to believe that if they can see it, they can be it—from a tennis player to a leader ready to take on the world —and we couldn’t be prouder to partner with her to help catalyze change.”
This month, Morgan Stanley and Fernandez are giving young people more than just a role model. Our “Racket Drop” program provides tennis rackets, bags and other gear, along with uplifting messages from Fernandez in surprise drops in under-resourced neighborhoods. Both Fernandez and the firm posted hints and location pins on both of their respective social channels, encouraging followers to find the gear. “Sports are getting more and more expensive--the equipment, the tournaments, the coaching fees,” she says. “If we can help alleviate that stress, it would be a big success for me.”
As part of our Everyone Deserves a Shot campaign, Morgan Stanley is also featuring Fernandez in a new TV spot called “See It to Be It,” meant to inspire young people to visualize success and take their shot by offering them a role model they can identify with.
Having role models and mentors made the difference for Fernandez. She says she was lucky to have the unwavering support of both her family—she, her dad and her sister Bianca spent so many fun days on the courts bonding that they referred to themselves as “the Three Musketeers”—and her many coaches as she made her rise through the ranks. “I’ve always had mentors who helped me and are still helping me now,” she says.
And she knows that somewhere out there are other young girls hoping for the chance to have their own pink, flowered rackets—and the opportunities that the sport can provide beyond the court. With Morgan Stanley, she hopes to help give them that chance. Says Fernandez, “I want the younger generation to have the mindset that anything is possible.”