Photo by: Angel Martinez/Getty Images for ITF
Leylah Annie Fernandez posted arguably the most important singles win of her 2023 season on Sunday afternoon at Roland-Garros. The 20-year-old Canadian upset no. 21 seed Magda Linette of Poland 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to reach the second round of the clay court Grand Slam in Paris.
Wins have been hard to come by for Fernandez this year, but she employed the right tactics against Linette and executed her game plan well despite a few hiccups along the way. In the opening set, she reeled off five straight games from 1-3 down to secure a lead in the match. Linette turned the tables in set two in swift fashion as she raised her level and appeared poised to carry all the momentum into the decisive third frame, but Fernandez had other plans. She steadied herself in impressive fashion even though she battled a wayward service toss throughout the contest. She was the aggressor in most of the rallies, doing her best to stay close to the baseline and take the ball early. She used her backhand very effectively to gain the advantage in the points. Fernandez consistently put pressure on the Linette serve in the third set and finally converted her seventh break point chance in the eighth game to earn a 5-3 advantage and successfully served out the match to book her spot in round two on Wednesday when she will face Danish qualifier Clara Tauson.
“It was a very difficult match; I’ve known Magda for a very long time. We’ve always had good training sessions and good matches. Always three sets – so I knew it was going to be a tough match and I’m very happy with the way I fought, especially in the third set, I didn’t give away many free points,” Fernandez said in her post-match interview.
This is Fernandez’s second win over Linette in three matches and her second triumph over the Pole at Roland-Garros. She also beat her in Paris in 2020 which was her first career victory over a seeded player at a Grand Slam. Sunday’s win is especially big for the Canadian who is defending quarter-final points from her impressive run at Roland-Garros last year. As for her next match, Fernandez and Tauson met in the 2019 junior Australian Open final with the Dane coming out on top. They have yet to play each other at the pro level.
On Monday, three more Canadians will begin their singles campaigns in Paris with Félix Auger-Aliassime facing Italian veteran Fabio Fognini, Denis Shapovalov taking on American Brandon Nakashjma, and Rebecca Marino going up against Diana Shnaider. Catch all the action on TSN and RDS.