July 22, 2024

Open Court


Out of San Diego Tuesday, back to work Wednesday for Leylah Fernandez (video)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – After a loss to No. 8 seed Daria Kasatkina Tuesday, Leylah Fernandez was still in San Diego and back on the practice court Wednesday.

As she said she would be, after a 6-2, 6-2 drubbing in her first match since the US Open.

After six weeks, there was a lot of rust – a flood of unforced errors, while Kasatkina was as steady and consistent as she needed to be. So on this particular day, the Russian had a lot of help.

Fernandez won just a third of the 91 points played, and managed to win just half the points with her first serve.

The initial questions to Fernandez after the match focused on the quality of her opponent, as if that were the biggest contributing factor

But if you know Fernandez at all, you know that regardless of who was on the other side of the net, she feels the match is primarily on her own racquet.

Whether that’s actually true or not depends in part on the day, and the type of opponent. But on this day, it was definitely a factor.

Here’s what she said – in English and in French.

Tough day, tough opponent

Kasatkina hits the ball with a lot of spin. And although Fernandez said after the match that she practices against all types of opponents – players who hit flat, or with spin – those with a lot of topspin pose a threat to her preferred court position right on the baseline.

The ball bounces higher, and it’s more challenging (and more physically demanding) to take that topspin on the rise time after time, for an entire match.

“It’s tough right now to really think about positive things that happened (today). But Dasha, she’s an amazing player, she has improved so much. Over the years, I’ve watched her play, like on TV when I was still a junior, and then seeing her now in the top 10 and doing so well this year. Is is truly inspiring” Fernandez said. And I think today, she showed how well she plays; she didn’t make too many mistakes. And I unfortunately did.”

Fernandez’s season has had a couple of high points. But only twice in the last 12 months has she won back-to-back matches on the WTA Tour.

The first came in Monterrey, Mexico in February, when she defended her 2021 title.

The second came at Roland Garros, where she was impressive in reaching the quarterfinals – only to suffer a stress fracture in her foot that was arguably the biggest factor in a loss to the Italian Martina Trevisan.

After that, came two months away from the courts.

Fernandez is 2-4 since returning to action in Toronto at the Omnium Banque Nationale in August.

She’s not alone, among the group of players who had big seasons in 2021, to struggle to reach that same level in 2022. Maria Sakkari, who also was eliminated in the first round after getting a late wild card into San Diego, talked about it pretty honestly after her match.

Fernandez’s final tournament of the season should be next week, at the WTA 1000 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

After that, comes the BJK Cup Finals in Glasgow, Scotland.

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