Photo : Abierto GNP Seguros
Of the many things that make rising star Leylah Fernandez’s first WTA title in Monterrey special, here are seven of the most important highlights!
1. She didn’t drop a set all week
Fernandez won her first title in great style, winning all sets she played. While she did have to come back from a break down in the first set against Viktoria Kuzmova in her quarterfinal match, she was never in danger of losing any of the sets she played, as she did not face a single set point.
Despite clashing against only one seeded player in No. 7 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo, this title is a testament to how Fernandez’s ranking will only rise from now on as she proved to be much stronger than her opposition at the Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey.
2. She always brings her best to Mexico
Leylah has a special place in her heart for Mexico, and that comes from before her title last week. The Laval native, who is also fluent in Spanish as well as English and French, has reached her first WTA final in Acapulco last year, where she lost in the final to Britain’s Heather Watson in three tough sets. She was magnificent in that occasion, having reached the final after qualifying to the main draw.
Fernandez’s previous attempt in Monterrey last year ended at the hands of current World No. 5 Elina Svitolina in the quarter-final, but not before making the straight sets contest a difficult one for the Top 10 star, who would go on to win the title that week.
This past Sunday, to the delight of the tournament organizers and people involved, the first-time champion delivered her on court speech in Spanish, thanking them and saying she would be back. Wearing a mask on her face was not enough to cover Fernandez’s big smile as she held her special first WTA trophy.
3. She is still just 18 years old
Being a part of Canada’s Billie Jean King Cup since 2019, and having taken down then World No. 5 Belinda Bencic for Canada in their tie against Switzerland in 2020, it may seem like Leylah has been a professional for a long time. However, this is only the beginning of what can only become an illustrious career in professional tennis: Leylah Annie Fernandez was born September 6, 2002, thus being only 18 years, 7 months old in the occasion of winning her first ever title.
We will most definitely look back to Monterrey years in the future and remember it as the tournament that had the privilege of seeing Leylah Fernandez as a champion for the first time!
4. She ended another player’s big win streak in Mexico
The No. 7 seed was coming off a hot winning streak which debuted in Guadalajara the week before and saw her winning her first WTA title. The World No. 58, who was then ranked almost 30 positions above Fernandez, was always going to be a tough ask for the Canadian, as she would make sure to put as many balls back as possible.
It was the 18 year old’s time to shine, though, as she came back from a break down in both sets to win the semi-final encounter 6-3, 7-5. The win also meant breaking Sorribes Tormo’s eight-match winning streak.
5. She jumped 16 spots in the ranking with her title win
With the title, Leylah Fernandez reached her highest career ranking to date, reaching a career-high World No. 72 ranking after earning 280 points for her efforts in Monterrey.
She is one of only seven teenage players ranked inside the World’s Top 100, following the footsteps of 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who entered the top 100 in the same year she won the major title.
6. She faced only one break point before the quarter-finals
The left hander’s serve is quickly becoming a reliable part of her game. Firing 13 aces across all matches this week, Fernandez has been able to fend off 75% of break points faced during the tournament, and faced only one in her first two matches. She was broken for the first time in the quarter-final matchup against Kuzmova, where she erased an impressive 10 of 12 breaking chances from the Slovakian.
Imperious on her first delivery, the rising star landed 70% of her first serves for the whole tournament, winning a solid 75% of these. When Fernandez puts her first serve in, she is in control of the rallies.
Not too bad for a 5’4” player!
7. She defeated an in-form player with 25 wins this year in the final
In Sunday’s final, on the other side of the net from Fernandez stood Viktorija Golubic who also had a very successful week in Monterrey. Starting in the qualifying draw, Golubic also did not drop a single set before the final.
The Swiss already held 25 wins to just 4 losses in 2021 and had won 12 of her last 13 matches before the start of the encounter, including a runner-up finish in Linz two weeks prior to coming to Mexico. Fernandez clearly had a difficult task ahead in trying to stop the 28 year old from claiming her second tour-level title.
Nerves would not get the best of her, though, as she sent Golubic packing after one hour, 31 minutes of play, taking advantage of 27 unforced errors from the qualifier to just 7 winners for the final. Fernandez herself hit a net positive ratio of 23 winners to 17 unforced errors, including the forehand cross-court passing shot winner that made Leylah into a WTA titlist for the first time in her young career.