Photo : Martin Sidorjak
Leylah Annie Fernandez’s first trip to Doha is off to a great start after she took out the No. 12 seed Liudmila Samsonova in straight sets on Monday at the first WTA 1000 event of the year.
Playing in her first match since the Australian Open, the Canadian survived some early pressure from her opponent before holding her nerve despite a late push in the second set to hang on for a 7-5, 7-6(4) win.
When the dust settled, Fernandez won just one more point in the match, getting revenge for a defeat in their lone previous clash at the 2022 US Open. Despite facing pressure, the Canadian defended her serve well saving six of eight break points faced.
While Samsonova was strong on the first serve, winning 70 per cent of those points, Fernandez exploited her second by winning 60 per cent when the 12th seed missed her first delivery.
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The first couple of games of the match were a roller coaster, with Fernandez saving multiple break points in the first game and then breaking for a 2-0 lead, only to immediately be broken back with Samsonova pulling back level at 2-2.
Throughout the opening set, the Canadian found herself facing pressure on serve but she was up to the challenge, saving break points in the seventh and ninth games. Fernandez then flipped the script at the perfect moment, breaking Samsonova in the 12th game to steal the set.
Fernandez again broke in her first return game of the second set and this time held on to take a 3-0 lead. She kept her nose in front until she blinked serving for the match at 5-3 where the 12th seed broke to get back on serve.
Still, the Canadian nearly was able to close on her opponent’s serve in the following game holding three match points. But Samsonova dug deep, saved all three with some impressive big hitting, and eventually forced a tiebreak.
Once again Fernandez put herself in a good position to finish off the match, racing to a 5-1 lead in the breaker, only for Samsonova to make it interesting by pulling back to 5-4. This time, the Canadian did not let the lead slip away, taking the last two points on her opponent’s serve to finish off the upset.
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Next up for Fernandez is former world No. 2 Paula Badosa. The Spaniard has won all three of their previous meetings in straight sets, although two of them were by the same tight 7-5, 7-6 scoreline.