Leylah Fernandez keeps her emotions in check to claim comeback win to say ‘thank you’ to family and friends

·3-min read
Leylah Fernandez celebrates Credit: PA Images
Leylah Fernandez celebrates Credit: PA Images

Playing in her first match since the French Open, Leylah Fernandez enjoyed “great moments, bad moments and spectacular moments” to overcome Storm Sanders and enjoy a happy homecoming at the Canadian Open in Toronto.

Having suffered a grade three stress fracture in her right foot during her run to the quarter-final of the French Open, Fernandez missed Wimbledon and initially earmarked last week’s Citi Open as her comeback event.

However, the Canadian was urged to delay her return until her home event in Toronto and it was a happy return as she defeated qualifier Sanders 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3 in two hours and 42 minutes.

Fernandez saved three break points in the opening game of the match and Sanders also had to save a hat-trick of break points in game eight.

Two games later and the US Open runner-up went one set up after breaking.

The second set started with a break for the Australian, but Fernandez broke to love in game four to draw level. The 19-year-old then had two match points in game 10, but Sanders held firm and ended up dominating the tie-breaker to take the match to a decider.

Breaks in games five and nine set up the win for Fernandez.

“I think after not playing for two months I had a lot of expectations for myself to play an amazing match – that my serve, my return, my forehand was going to work,” she said.

“It wasn’t my best level but I’m glad I was able to fight through my emotions.”

Fernandez added: “It was definitely one tough match. It had everything. It had great moments, bad moments, it had spectacular moments from both players.

“I was just super happy that I was able to play in front of my home crowd. And also that at the end of the match my body feels amazing. So that’s a huge positive. That’s the biggest win that I can ask for.”

It was her first win on home soil as she lost in the first round in 2019 and 2021.

“Here in Toronto it’s just 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 cheered me on throughout the years,” Fernandez said. “So it’s like a great way for me to say thank you to them by showing that all the years that not only I suffer, but their suffering too has paid off and hopefully that this can keep going.”

The teenager will face Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round after the Brazilian defeated Martina Trevisan from Italy 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.

Last year’s Canadian Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova as the 14th seeded defeated fellow Czech Barbora Krejcikova 6-3, 6-4 while former world No 1 Simona Halep was 6-0, 6-2 winner over Donna Vekic.

In the battle of the former American Grand Slam champions, Sloane Stephens beat Sofia Kenin 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5 to set up a second-round clash against third seed Maria Sakkari from Greece.

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