Fernandez backhand

Photo: Australian Open

There was the possibility of either an all-French or all-Canadian second round clash in the women’s draw at the Australian Open, but instead there will be a blockbuster between Canadian No. 1 Leylah Annie Fernandez and fourth seed Caroline Garcia.

Garcia defeated Fernandez’s countrywoman Katherine Sebov, who reached the main draw in Melbourne through qualifying and made her major debut on Tuesday, but was beaten by the world No. 4. Earlier in the day, Fernandez had beaten Garcia’s fellow Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in straight sets.

This year’s Australian Open draw was a bit unkind to Fernandez as she was faced with a stiff challenge right out of the gate at the first Major of the tennis season against Cornet, one of toughest outs on the WTA Tour. In the end, the 20-year-old native of Laval passed the test with flying colours on Monday night, posting a 7-5, 6-2 victory over the veteran Frenchwoman to reach the second round in Melbourne for the first time in her young career.

Fernandez was erratic and noticeably nervous at the start of the match which led to a quick break in the opening game, but soon steadied herself off the ground. Playing with more aggression and purpose, she got back on even terms in the sixth game and eventually converted her second set point opportunity to put herself in the driver’s seat against Cornet, who struggled to find any rhythm with her serve and battled an inconsistent ball toss throughout the contest.

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Fernandez carried her momentum into the second frame. She led from start to finish and earned the decisive break in the sixth game to secure a much-needed straight sets win in the scorching Aussie heat. On the stat sheet, her superiority on the day showed with 25 winners and 29 unforced errors compared to just 14 winners and 34 unforced errors from her opponent’s racket.

This marks her first Australian Open main triumph in her fourth tournament appearance.

Garcia proves too much for Sebov

Katherine Sebov could not have asked for a much bigger stage in her Grand Slam debut, as she took to Rod Laver Arena to face off with one of the title favourites in Caroline Garcia.

However, Garcia was too tough for the 24-year-old Canadian who was beaten in straight sets.

Early on, Sebov showed little nerves and managed to hang with the No. 4 seed, but once Garcia got on a roll Sebov could not keep up as her first appearance in a major main draw ended with a 6-3, 6-0 loss.

Garcia overpowered the Canadian in the opening match of the day on the main show court. The Frenchwoman blasted 22 winners while Sebov on managed one. Garcia saved the only two break points she faced and won almost double the amount of points as her opponent.

Through the first six games, Sebov matched Garcia blow for blow. The Canadian actually had a chance to grab an early lead when she held the first two break points on the fourth seed’s serve at 2-all. But an error on the first and a Garcia forehand winner on the second erased the threat and flipped the momentum of the match.

Sebov held serve for 3-3 but that was the last time the match was close. Garcia held  and then converted her first break point of the match with a forehand winner to move ahead 5-3.

It was one-way traffic for the Frenchwoman the rest of the way as she won every remaining game, finishing the match on a nine-game run. Sebov won just seven points in the second set.

Garcia will have her hands full with her second Canadian in a row in the form of Fernandez in round two. It will be a first meeting between the pair.