Photo : Martin Sidorjak
There are no Canadian women left in the singles draw at the Australian Open after Leylah Annie Fernandez lost a tough battle with No. 4 seed Caroline Garcia on Thursday in straight sets.
The Canadian No. 1 gave the world No. 4 everything she could handle in the hard-fought clash on Rod Laver Arena and had multiple chances to take control of the match. However, in the most important moments, it was Garcia playing the better tennis as the WTA Finals Champion advanced with a 7-6(5), 7-5 win.
Fernandez became Garcia’s second Canadian victim in a row after the Frenchwoman defeated Katherine Sebov in the first round.
Missed opportunities cost the Canadian who converted just one of her nine break points in the match. Garcia only had three chances on the Fernandez serve but won two of them. The Frenchwoman was the aggressor in the match, hitting almost twice as many winners as her young opponent, 40 to 18, along with 11 aces, but also had far more errors with 24 to Fernandez’s 14.
Despite Garcia winning in straight sets, the two women finished tied in total points won at 81 apiece.
Right from the start, it was a battle for territory on the court as both women hugged the baseline and refused to give an inch.
Garcia appeared thrown off by Fernandez’s steadfast defence and struggled to find a rhythm in the opening set. She misfired a forehand well long on break point in the fifth game to give the Canadian the early lead.
In the next game, it was Fernandez’s turn to struggle as she played her one sloppy game of the set, which combined with some huge returns for the Frenchwoman put the set back on serve. Fernandez continued to be the more solid player and had four more break points in the set, but was unable to put a return in play on any of them.
It still looked like Fernandez’s persistence would pay off when some brilliant hitting handed her a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak, but Garcia turned on the jets late. The key moment came as Fernandez served for the set at 5-4 but was indecisive on a net approach and left a sitter in the middle of the court which Garcia ripped past her to reclaim the minibreak. The Frenchwoman won seven of the final eight points to take the opening set.
Despite Garcia’s strong finish, Fernandez remained the more solid player early in the second set, holding serve with relative ease while continuing to cause Garcia problems. The Canadian had the first five break points of the set, including one set point at 5-4, but each time the Frenchwoman found a big serve.
After breaking serve in the fifth game of the first set, Fernandez did not put a return in play on any of her seven subsequent break points.
Garcia erasing the set point with an ace proved critical as she played her best return game of the match at 5-all, blowing Fernandez off the court and breaking to love. The world No. 4 fittingly closed out the match with another unreturned serve.
Her second-round appearance was a career-best in Melbourne for Fernandez, who is still competing in the doubles alongside Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Two other Canadian women, Gabriela Dabrowski and Rebecca Marino, are also both playing doubles.