Zhao and Fernandez victorious in their opening round matches
After a full day of first round matches Carol Zhao (Richmond Hill, ON) and Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC) moved into the second round at the Saguenay National Bank Challenger. Sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the tournament offers $60,000 USD in prize money and will be held from October 23 to 29, 2017.
Four Canadians were in singles action on Tuesday. After dropping the opening set, Carol Zhao battled back to force a decisive set. Despite going down an early break in the third, the resilient Canadian managed to even out the score and bring the match to a tiebreak. Zhao, the tournament’s fourth seed, was dominant in the tiebreak, taking the match 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) after a little over two hours of play.
Earlier in the afternoon, in an all-Canadian matchup, the youngest player in the tournament, 15-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez took on Isabelle Boulais (Toronto, ON). After a tight first set, the young Laval native took control of the match, overpowering her fellow Canadian 7-5, 6-2. This is Fernandez’s first victory at a $60,000 ITF Women’s Challenger event. Earlier this year, she became the first player born in 2002 to win a main draw match at a $25,000 Challenger event.
Playing in the final match of the day was last year’s finalist Bianca Andreescu (Mississauga, ON) taking on the former top junior player Shilin Xu of China. Although Andreescu dropped the first set, she rallied in the second with a dominant performance over her opponent, not giving up a single game. Things got tighter in the third, with the match needing a tiebreak to decide the winner. Despite going up an early mini break, Andreescu was unable to hold off her heavy hitting opponent and Xu took the match 7-5, 0-6, 7-6(3).
Two Canadian doubles teams were also in action on Tuesday, with the pair of Anca Craciun and Petra Januskova taking out the all-American team of Kennedy Shaffer and Ronit Yurovsky. In the final match of the day, the Canadian duo of Leylah Annie Fernandez and Catherine Leduc fell to Jessika Ponchet of France and her partner Kimberley Zimmermann of Belgium.
It was a tough day for the tournament’s top players, as three of the tournament’s top seeds fell in first round action. The fifth seed Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico and the seventh seed Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland were both eliminated on Tuesday. American Emina Bektas, the tournament’s sixth seed, lost a tight three set match to fellow American Julia Elbaba.
Feature photo: Pascal Ratthé