Leylah Fernandez is into the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in her career after a solid win over Alize Cornet, but the challenges don’t get easier as she faces Caroline Garcia next.
Making her fourth appearance at Melbourne Park, Fernandez finally won a match as she defeated world No 34 Cornet 7-5, 6-2 in one hour and 41 minutes.
“Before the match [against Cornet] and during the match, I wasn’t thinking about that, but after when I did hear it was my first win at the Australian Open, it did feel like it’s a good step in the right direction,” the 2021 US Open runner-up said.
“I’ve been playing this tournament for a couple of years, and always fell short of a first-round win. It wasn’t easy to accept, but I was just happy that I was able to get through it and to get another chance to play here.”
The Canadian struggled with injury last year as she fractured her foot en route to the French Open quarter-final and was forced to miss several tournaments – including Wimbledon.
However, she has slowly worked her way back and started the year with a run to the quarter-final at the ASB Classic in Auckland.
Asked if she is regaining top form again, the 20-year-old replied: “I don’t know what my best level is. I just want to improve and get better every day and I want to see what my body and mind can do for the next couple of years.
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“I’m just happy that I am in top shape, that I’ve worked hard in the pre-season with my coaches and fitness coach and I feel ready for the challenges that’s coming in the next round.”
Fernandez also paid tribute to her parents, in particular her father and coach Jorge, for reinforcing the importance of mental toughness in tennis and life in general.
For me, the mental to the physical is three to one. Mental is extremely important,” she said. “I’m very grateful my parents, especially my dad, has reinforced that.
“He hasn’t really taught me about tennis or technique but more of the mental side of the sport. Because it’s hard. You’re all alone out there on court. Most of the time you don’t have a coach with you or the coach can’t talk to you during points.
“You have to figure some things out, you have to be your own cheerleader, own biggest critic, own biggest supporter. I’m just happy he taught me those values from a young age and that I was able to kind of implement that now.”
The next round will be a big challenge as WTA Finals champion Garcia awaits after the fourth-seeded Frenchwoman defeated qualifier Katherine Sebov 6-3, 6-0.
Meanwhile, fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka beat Tereza Martincova 6-1, 6-4 while former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova defeated Xiyu Wang 6-1, 6-3.
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