Fernandez overcomes first-round test in Toronto

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez plays a shot against Storm Sanders of Australia during the National Bank Open, part of the Hologic WTA Tour, at Sobeys Stadium. Fernandez won in three sets on August 8, 2022 in Toronto.VAUGHN RIDLEY/Getty Images

Leylah Annie Fernandez is off to the second round of the National Bank Open, after a tense three-set victory over Australian qualifier Storm Sanders that stretched late into Monday night.

Despite letting two match points slip through her fingers in the second set, the Montreal teenager emptied it 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3 in an upside-down first-round match below on the sole leg of the WTA’s Canadian tour. .

Fresh from a two-month injury hiatus, the 19-year-old Canadian had to crush a fierce comeback attempt by the 27-year-old Australian in a battle of southpaws on opening night at the University York.

Fernandez had been sidelined since suffering a stress fracture in her right foot in a deep run at Roland Garros in May. She missed Wimbledon, the Citi Open in Washington and an exhibition with American teenage star Coco Gauff. But his doctor finally gave the green light in time for Toronto.

Rain showers caused their game to start two hours later than expected. The Canadian world number 14 played in red and white and won overwhelming favor with the center court crowd. She said the crowd gave her goosebumps. It was his third appearance at this Canadian tournament, but heading into Monday, Fernandez was still looking for his first win at the event.

The teenager, who speaks English, French and Spanish, raised her fist and shouted in all three languages ​​- recalling her thrilling run to the US Open final last September. She continued to look in the crowd at her father and coach Jorge Fernandez for support.

Fernandez could have finished the match in 90 minutes when she faced match point for the first time at 6-5 in the second set, with fans cheering wildly. Then it happened again. Instead, the Aussie held serve and they battled a tiebreaker, with the qualifier seemingly gaining confidence every time she hit the ball. The Aussie stole the set, forcing a third set, extending her time on the court at this WTA 1000 event.

“I was quite disappointed in myself that I couldn’t convert,” Fernandez said. “Storm did a great job of staying in the game and fighting. …I got to look at my box and my corner and just saw my dad say, ‘Keep fighting, keep working on it,'” like it’s not going to be the easiest game.

This set was too tight. The pair continued to fight past 11:30 p.m. ET.

“I think after not playing for two months, I had a lot of expectations for myself to play an amazing game, that everything is going to go down, and like my serve, my return, my forehand is going to work like I wanted to, but he didn’t,” Fernandez said. “Obviously it’s not my best, but I was just happy that I was able to fight through all that emotion.”

Next, she will face unranked Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia. Fernandez faces a tough section of the draw, which also includes world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

“My body is amazing,” she said of her first real physical test after two months off.

Even after the night ends, she will be paired with her younger sister Bianca Fernandez in doubles on Tuesday. It’s not only a great opportunity for the siblings to team up, but also designed to give him more matches after missing part of the hard-court season.

Fellow Canadian Bianca Andreescu – the 2019 champion of this event – is unseeded and opens play on Tuesday night. Ranked 53rd, the native of Mississauga faces the 9th world Russian, Daria Kasatkina.

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