Photo : Camera Work USA
It was déjà-vu on Sunday at the US Open.
Canada’s Leylah Fernandez found herself locked in a battle on the brink of defeat, having lost a tight opening set and down a break in the second against a former US Open champion.
Just like she did against Naomi Osaka on Friday, the 18-year-old mounted an incredible comeback, rallying to defeat Angelique Kerber in a three-set thriller.
The teen is now through to her first Grand Slam quarter-final following the 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory.
Kerber is one of the best grinders on the WTA Tour, but Fernandez found a way to break her down, pounding 45 winners to her opponent’s 28. She was also ruthless at the net, winning 16 of 21 points when coming in.
The difference was ultimately break point chances, as both players had nine break points, but Fernandez converted five of hers while Kerber only managed four.
Both women led by a break at one point in the opening set, but neither was able to maintain the lead as they were both immediately broken back.
Fernandez had a chance to take control of the set when she broke for a 4-2 lead, but Kerber responded in dominant fashion, breaking back to love and reeling off four straight games, including the last nine points, to take the opening set.
Kerber kept the moment going into the second set, grabbing an early break for a 2-1 lead.
Like her match against Osaka, Fernandez was not going away quietly, pulling out all her best shots, including a stunning lunging forehand winner up the line, to break Kerber to love and level the set at 4-all.
At 5-6 as Kerber served to stay in the set, the Canadian had a set point, but lost a hard-hitting rally and the German eventually held to force a tiebreak.
After Kerber grabbed a minibreak on the first point, Fernandez seized control, winning five straight points and eventually setting up a set point with a forehand return winner. She drew an error from Kerber to take the tiebreak 7-5 and send the match to a deciding set.
Both women had breaks points in the early games of the third, but neither was able to convert. Fernandez then had a double break point at 2-all and Kerber sent a forehand long to put the Canadian ahead.
The break seemed to completely change the match. Fernandez was now in full control, bullying Kerber around the court, while the air seemed to have come out of the German’s tires. The Canadian broke again in the next game to set herself up to serve out the match at 5-2.
Serving for the match, Fernandez needed just a bit more magic, saving two break points with forehand winners before converting her first match point for another major upset.
Fernandez is the third different Canadian to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in singles in 2021, along with Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime who reached the last eight at Wimbledon. Bianca Andreescu can become the fourth on Monday.
The teen will meet fifth seed Elina Svitolina with a spot in the semi-finals on the line. Fernandez will also look to reach the quarter-finals in doubles on Monday.
Dabrowski gets big win on Ashe
Fernandez was not the only Canadian who was victorious on Sunday in New York, as Gabriela Dabrowski advanced to the third round of the women’s doubles alongside partner Luisa Stefani with an epic three-set win.
The fifth seeds defeated Petra Martic and Shelby Rogers 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(3) on Arthur Ashe Stadium after the match was moved indoors due to poor weather in New York.
Stefani and Dabrowski hit almost twice as many winners as unforced errors, 57 to 29, and won 74 percent of their first serve points.
After Martic and Rogers held to start the match, Dabrowski and Stefani took over, winning five straight games, including a pair of breaks, to take a stranglehold on the opening set. They did surrender one of the breaks, but their lead was ultimately sufficient as the fifth seeds served out the set at the second time of asking.
The Canadian/Brazilian pair got off to another quick start in the second set, breaking in the opening game, but were quickly broken back as Martic and Rogers levelled at 2-all. The set eventually required a tiebreak, which the Croatian/American pair won 7-5 to send the match to a deciding set.
There were no breaks of serve in the third set, so a tiebreak was needed to decide the match.
Dabrowski and Stefani grabbed a minibreak on the second point of the breaker and that was enough as they hung on to take the breaker 7-3 and clinch their spot in the third round.