Photo : Sarah-Jäde Champagne
On Friday, three Canadians were competing for a spot in the semi-finals at the Gatineau National Bank Challenger.
On the hottest day of the week, Carson Branstine (Orange, CA) was in action looking to reach her first semi-final since March. Standing in her way was Quinn Gleason of the United States, the tournament’s eighth seed. After taking the opening set in a tiebreak, the Canadian’s level dropped in the second, as she struggled while on serve. The match required a decisive set, where Branstine capitalized on her opportunities to take the lead. After nearly three hours of play, she booked her spot in the semi-finals thanks to a 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-2 victory. In the next round, she will face Susan Bandecchi of Switzerland, the tournament’s seventh seed, who defeated Sophie Chang of the United States earlier in the day by a score of 6-2, 6-4.
Looking to follow in the footsteps of her compatriot, Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC) was taking on Marcela Zacarias of Mexico, a regular at the Gatineau Challenger. It was the 16-year-old Canadian who jumped out to the early lead, breaking her opponent’s serve. She tightened up towards the end of the set, committing seven double faults. Fernandez was dominant in the tiebreaker, however, bringing her a set closer to the semi-finals. In the second, she continued her strong play, outhitting her opponent. She needed just under two hours to complete the victory 7-6(3), 6-2.
Françoise Abanda (Montreal, QC) was looking to make it three Canadians into the semi-finals, but first she had to face Victoria Emma of the United States. The Montreal native is playing in her first tournament since March as she was sidelined for a few months due to injury. A late break at the end of the first set gave Abanda the lead in the match, but her opponent managed to level the score. After exchanging breaks in the decider, it was the Canadian who again got a late break to take the match 7-5, 4-6, 7-5. She will face compatriot Fernandez in the semi-finals. This will be the first meeting between the two.
Fernandez will have a busy Saturday as she will also be competing in the women’s doubles final, playing alongside fellow Canadian Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC). The duo defeated the tournament’s top seeds Quinn Gleason and Ingrid Neel of the United States by a score of 6-3, 3-6, 10-4. In tomorrow’s final, they will be taking on the third seeds Marcela Zacarias of Mexico and Chieh-Yu Hsu of Chinese Taipei.
On the men’s side, Joao Menezes of Brazil, who defeated Canadian third seed Peter Polansky the day before, found himself in another marathon match against the sixth seed Norbert Gombos. After dropping the opening set, he leveled the score and brought the match to a decider. In the third, he capitalized on Gombos’ errors to book his spot in the semi-finals with a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory. He will face Jason Kubler (no. 10) of Australia in the next round, who put on a dominant performance against Duckhee Lee of South Korea on Friday, taking the match 6-2, 6-3.
The other men’s semi-final will be disputed between Darian King of Barbados and Enzo Couacaud of France, the 12th and 15th seeds, respectively. King defeated Maxime Janvier in his quarter-final match by a score of 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 while Couacaud eliminated Australian Marc Polmans 6-1, 6-4.
Saturday will also play host to the men’s doubles final between the third seeds Polmans and partner Alex Lawson of the United States and the team of Hans Hach Verdugo of Mexico and Dennis Novikov of the United States.
The Gatineau National Bank Challenger is the first of two mixed draw tournaments held in Quebec during the month of July. The tournament will be followed by the Granby National Bank Challenger.
*Feature photo: Sarah-Jäde Champagne