September 20, 2023

Open Court


Impressive start for Fernandez in Paris


ROLAND GARROS – The clay-court lead-up was a struggle at times for Leylah Fernandez.

But the 18-year-old Canadian turned the page on that in impressive fashion Sunday with a sound beating of Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in the first round of Roland Garros.

The 6-2, 6-1 victory took just 59 minutes. Fernandez, who has been dealing with a few yips on serve, hit it at a 68 per cent clip and had just one double fault. Potapova, a 20-year-old ranked No. 78 – nine spots lower than Fernandez’s current career-high No. 69 – had five.

Fernandez lost just 6-of-26 points on her first serve, and just 4-of-12 on her second. She didn’t face a single break point.

“Lately, it’s been a bit tough for me to stay calm. But I’m happy that today I could stay strong mentally, especially at the start of the second set when she started to play better,” Fernandez said afterwards.

Here’s what it looked like, in the beautiful early-evening light.

Big success on service return, break points, and net visits

On return, Fernandez converted 5-of-9 break points, and limited Potapova to just a 27 per cent success rate when she missed her first serve.

More? According to the official statistics, Fernandez went 12-for-12 at the net.

“I don’t know if she played well or not, but I did my job the best I could,” Fernandez said. “We talked a lot this week, about the necessary changes for this tournament, and I think I did them well during the match.”

Fernandez’s first-round win at Roland Garros Sunday was sound on every single level.

Fernandez and Potapova know each other fairly well, having trained together some from the start of the year. They played doubles in Australia, and there are plans to team up more this summer.

You could tell, from their friendly and gracious exchange at the net when it was over.

“I think it helped that I knew her a little bit. We trained at the start last week, only to find out a few days alter we’d be play against each other. We ran into each other at the restaurant and joked about it,” Fernandez said.

Doubles, and Madison Keys, next for Fernandez

The Canadian said that she’d love to get right back on court and play her second round, having created some positive energy.

“But it’s a Grand Slam, and it’s a little different. Tomorrow we’ll train hard and try to keep that momentum in training,” she said.

Fernandez will play doubles with countrywoman Gabriela Dabrowski again in Paris. They teamed up for the first time ever in Belgrade two weeks ago, but fell, 10-8 in the match tiebreak, to the far more experienced pair of Xu Yifan and Zhang Shuai.

Their first round opponents in Paris, Georgina Garcia Perez and Julia Wachaczyk, have less of a pedigree. Wachaczyk (outside the top 900 in singles) is ranked No. 96 in doubles. Garcia-Perez, No. 83 in doubles, is a big-serving, 6-foot-1 Spaniard. But the two are teaming up for the first time.

Also on the horizon is a second-round singles match against No. 23 seed Madison Keys, who got past French wild card Océane Dodin 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 late Sunday evening.

It will be the first meeting between the two.

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