And just like that, Leylah Annie Fernandez is into her first ever WTA semi-final.
Fernandez continued her dominant stretch of play late Thursday night, defeating World No. 97 Anastasia Potapova 6-3, 7-5 at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presented by HSBC.
Just a few weeks after her incredible win over then-World No. 5 Belinda Bencic, Fernandez will now play for a spot in a WTA final.
A major milestone for @leylahfernandez 👊
The 17 year old from Montreal defeats Anatsasia Potapova 6-3, 7-5 at the @AbiertoTelcel in Acapulco to reach her first WTA semi-final.
Starting from qualifying, thats 🖐 wins in a row now!pic.twitter.com/nb1yk6e15X
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) February 28, 2020
What an unbelievable run for the 17 year old, who is turning into a star on the world stage. Her ferocious left-handed play and tireless intensity on the court is turning heads in Canada and beyond.
It’s the fifth win in a row including qualifiers for ‘LAF,’ who has yet to drop a set in the tournament.
The match didn’t come without its fair share of adversity, as Fernandez was down a break before the first set was 10 minutes old. But she continued to battle, hitting some great shots before capitalizing on her first break opportunity to tie the set up 2-2.
And she didn’t look back from there; she had another break opportunity two service games later, and again, she didn’t miss.
The confidence and poise Fernandez showed down 2-0 was impressive, and the urgency in her shots the rest of the way was equally as telling of the young star’s resilience.
Now up 4-2, she stayed the course, continuing to battle and win points before serving out the set in style at 5-3.
Lots of reason to smile if you’re a fan of @leylahfernandez who just made the semifinals in Acapulco with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Anastasia Potapova.
Next up for the 17 year old 🇨🇦 phenom is Renata Zarazua. pic.twitter.com/lHtD6Lccru
— Mike McIntyre (@McIntyreTennis) February 28, 2020
The second set was no easier for Fernandez, even though it may have seemed that way at the beginning. Russian Potapova was able to save three break points but couldn’t win the fourth, giving Fernandez the breakthrough she needed.
But with the set at 4-3 and Fernandez serving to take a commanding lead, 18-year-old Potapova proved she had some resilience in her as well, winning her first break point of the set to tie things up at 4-4.
What a set it turned out to be; neither player gave an inch, but it was Fernandez who was able to dig deep and break her opponent with the score tied 5-5.
One of those was all Fernandez would need, and after breaking Potapova, she had the opportunity to serve for the match up 6-5. Even the final game was a grind, as the Canadian teen lost three match points before saving a break point that would have led to a tiebreaker.
Finally, after over an hour and a half on the court, she converted on her fourth match point to defeat Potapova and reach her maiden semi-final.
ACAPULCO WTA International: Another big win for 17-year-old qualifier Leylah Annie Fernandez. She def #97 Anastasia Potopova (RUS), 18, 6-3, 7-5. Now vs Mexican wild card #270 Renata Zarazua, 22. LAF moves ranking from #190 to #139 this week. LAF-RZ semi not before 9 pm ET Canada
— Tom Tebbutt (@tomtebbutt) February 28, 2020
When the dust settled, Fernandez won nine of her 11 service games, while breaking her Russian opponent on four separate occasions.
The World No. 190 will be inside the top 150 next week, but more importantly for the youngster is a chance to play for a WTA trophy this week.
Next up is Mexican Renata Zarazúa, the first player she’ll face in the tournament who is seeded lower than her at 270. It’ll be a tough test for Fernandez as Zarazúa will have the home crowd behind her, but the way the young Canadian is playing, she can beat anyone.
(Feature image: @WTA)