TORONTO – Leylah Fernandez enjoyed a victorious return to the National Bank Open, beating Australian qualifier Storm Sanders 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3 in the first round.
Playing her first game since reaching the Roland Garros quarter-finals in May, the 19-year-old Canadian picked up her first home tournament main draw victory in her third appearance. She will face Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round.
“It was definitely a tough match,” Fernandez said. “There was everything. There were great moments, bad moments, there were spectacular moments from both players.
“I was just super happy that I got to play in front of my home crowd. And also that at the end of the game my body is amazing. So that’s a huge positive. It’s the biggest win I can ask.”
For Fernandez, going through a physical period of 2 hours and 41 minutes and feeling confident in his physical form is a big boon. She had been sidelined for more than two months with a stress fracture in her foot and had only been cleared to play days before the tournament. Monday night was Fernandez’s highly anticipated return after a year that included his run to the US Open final, winning his second Hologic WTA Tour title in Monterrey and, most recently, his second major quarter-final at Roland Garros.
“Here in Toronto, it’s like playing in front of my family, playing in front of the Canadian crowd, playing in front of all the people who have helped me, who have encouraged me over the years,” Fernandez said. “So it’s a great way for me to say thank you to them by showing that all the years that not only I’m hurting, but they’re hurting too, has paid off and I hope that can continue.”
Fernandez is doing double duty this week in Toronto. In addition to bringing back her singles, she is expected to play doubles with her younger sister Bianca. It’s a moment for their family but also an opportunity for Fernandez to accelerate his improvement to peak in New York.
“It also gets me into that attacking mindset, if I like to give an easy ball, there’s not just one player, there are two players from the other side who are going to come towards us. “, she said. “So that’s just going to help us prepare for those tougher games.
“Of course it’s going to be like overtime on the legs, but that’s what we want. That’s what we want to see if my body can handle it. And so far it’s been going great, so I’m just happy to have a great team behind me who will see and can help me make decisions.”