July 19, 2024

Open Court


Fernandez’s tough RC debut tempered by Halep team-up

TORONTO – At 16, Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez is as poised on court (and off) as you could want.

But the Fernandez who entered the big stadium at the Rogers Cup Monday to make her main-draw debut wasn’t that Fernandez.

She looked her age, something extremely rare for the teenager who won the French Open juniors in early June and her first pro title at the $25,000 ITF tournament in Gatineau a few weeks ago.

Fernandez reached the final of a much bigger tournament, the $80,000 ITF in Granby, just two weeks ago.

But on Monday against qualifier Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, a 21-year-old currently at a career-high No. 91 in the singles rankings, she flinched a little. 

And by the time got got her bearings, it was a little too late to make a run.

“I was very surprised that I was that nervous. I don’t think that has happened in a few years. But having that nervousness is something I’ll learn, and I’ll practice,   figure out the tactics to get over the nerves as quickly as possible,” the Canadian said after a 6-0, 6-1 loss.

Her opponent also was a Grand Slam junior champion. Bouzkova reached the Wimbledon junior girls’ final a few weeks before her 16th birthday. And two months later, she won the US Open junior girls’ singles title.

Notably, Bouzkova crushed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-1 in the second round in Flushing Meadow. And yet, it was Ostapenko who won the French Open title three years later.

Transition from junior to pro success a mystery road

Blisters on hands can be a very tricky thing to try to tape, and not have the tape interfere or just fall off. It definitely hampered Fernandez Monday.

The transition between major junior success and pro success is an exercise that would give those in the prediction business a lot of sleepless nights.

For Bouzkova, who fits the prototype of the 21st century female player at 5-foot-11, it has taken five years to get into the top 100. 

She qualified for her first Grand Slam last year in New York. And she made it in as a lucky loser this year at the French Open and Wimbledon. She won her first match at that level there against German veteran Mona Barthel.

For Fernandez, a nasty blister that popped up in practice meant a fairly complex tape job on her right hand Monday.

It was something that definitely hampered her on the backhand side. We got a look at it Tuesday, and it’s on the right side, bottom of her palm, just before the wrist.

Doubles with Halep


A silver lining on a tough day Monday is the opportunity to play with Wimbledon champion, and defending Rogers Cup champion, Simona Halep in doubles.

Fernandez said that Halep had approached the tournament director asking for a doubles wild card, and the tournament suggested she play with a Canadian.

Halep picked Fernandez off the list – the 2018 French Open champion with the 2019 French Open girls’ champion. Seems like symmetry.

Weather permitting, we’ll see how that goes on Tuesday.

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