Photo : Tyler Anderson/Tennis Canada
Monday at the Guadalajara Open, the final WTA 1000 event of the year, provided a snapshot of what could go down next month in Glasgow when Team Canada presented by Sobeys does battle with Switzerland in the group stage of the Billie Jean King Cup.
Should history repeat, the two nations will be tied 1-1 after the singles.
Bianca Andreescu won the battle of the likely No. 2s, cruising past Jil Teichmann. However, Belinda Bencic held off a spirit fight from Leylah Annie Fernandez, beating the Canadian No. 1 in three sets.
Rebecca Marino was also victorious in her first-round match in Guadalajara, beating non-Swiss opponent Ann Li of the United States in straight sets.
Andreescu was locked in on return in her match against Teichmann, breaking the Swiss’ serve five times and winning 50 per cent of return points in a 6-2, 6-4 win.
The Canadian wasted no time asserting her authority in the match, breaking serve twice on her way to a 3-0 lead to start the match. Teichmann was able to recover one break, but Andreescu was reading the Swiss’ serve perfectly and immediately broke back to re-establish the double-break advantage.
Teichmann had no answer for Andreescu’s strong hitting and found herself scrambling all over the court just to stay in rallies. Occasionally she was able to frustrate the Canadian, but it was not enough stop Andreescu from cruising through the first set.
Just like the opener, Andreescu broke to start the second set and soon found herself up a double break. Teichmann refused to go away and managed to break the Canadian as she served for the match at 5-2, but when Andreescu stepped up to try again at 5-4, she easily held to love to advance to the second round.
This match may serve as a preview of the Billie Jean King Cup next month. Andreescu and Teichmann are expected to be their countries’ No. 2 players when Canada and Switzerland meet in the group stage.
In the battle of national No. 1s, Leylah Annie Fernandez suffered her first defeat at the hands of Bencic, going down in three sets. The Canadian had won both previous meetings with the Swiss.
Fernandez found herself playing from behind for most of the match and while she continued to fight back, saving five match points in the second set to extend the match, she never managed to establish control and was beaten 7-5, 6-7(10), 6-3.
Much of the match saw Bencic pull ahead, only for Fernandez to reel her in. The first two sets followed the exact same storyline, with the Swiss breaking in the third game and leading 4-1, only for Fernandez to rally and tie the set at 4-4.
In the first, Fernandez had a chance to steal the set when she turned the 1-4 deficit into 5-4, 0-40 on the Bencic serve, holding three set points. However, the Swiss saved them all, broke in the following game, and served out the set to love.
Bencic allowed history to repeat in the second when she handed Fernandez the break in the eighth game with three consecutive double faults. The Swiss had a chance to change the narrative when she held a break point in the next game, but Fernandez saved it with a big serve.
The script finally changed when Fernandez held at 5-all and the set eventually needed a tiebreak.
Double faults seemed to cost Fernandez as she committed one on the first point of the tiebreak. The next nine points went with serve to give Bencic two match points at 4-6. A pair of misses gave erased both match points, only for Fernandez to double fault again to give the Swiss a third chance to end the match.
This time, she sent a forehand long to level the breaker at 8-all. Bencic committed another error to miss a fourth match point before Fernandez got her first look at a set point, only to send her return long.
Finally, after Bencic couldn’t handle a big serve from the Canadian on a fifth match point, she double-faulted at 10-11 to hand the epic tiebreak and the second set to Fernandez.
Once again, Bencic struck first as she broke for a 2-0 lead in the decider. But as always, Fernandez fought right back, breaking and levelling the set at 2-2.
However, back-to-back errors from Fernandez in the sixth game gave away another break and this time, it was too deep a hole for the Canadian to dig out of. Bencic was finally able to hang on to a lead as she held her final two services games to grab the victory.
Fernandez still holds the head-to-head advantage heading into their potential meeting in Glasgow, including a win in Billie Jean King Cup (then Fed Cup) competition back in 2020.
Rebecca Marino was the first of the Canadians two Canadians to advance, putting away Ann Li just minutes before Andreescu finished off her match.
It was a fairly typical Marino performance, as the powerful Canadian pounded 11 aces and won 71 per cent of points on her serve. She also limited Li to just three break points, while creating 10 on return.
Marino started applying pressure early, holding a couple of break points in the fourth game before scoring the break to take a 4-2 lead.
As Li served to stay in the set at 2-5, the Canadian continued applying the pressure and created several set points on the American’s serve. On the third, Marino ripped a big forehand that was too much for Li to handle as the Canadian took the opening set.
Early in the second, Marino’s level started to dip a little and Li saw some openings on return. She missed two break points in the third game but converted one in the fifth to take the lead.
Li hung on until it was time to serve out the set. Having not faced a break point in the second set, the American fell behind 15-40 and Marino converted the second break point to level at 5-all.
In the tiebreak, Marino came out firing and raced to a 5-1 lead which was more than enough cushion for the Canadian to book her place in the second round.
Marino will have her hands full in the round two when she meets sixth seed Caroline Garcia. Andreescu awaits the winner between No. 16 seed Petra Kvitova and American Bernarda Pera.