Photo : @BNPPARIBASOPEN
The first event after a breakthrough can be a challenge for a young tennis player, but not for Leylah Fernandez.
The 19-year-old returned to the court in singles for the first time since reaching the US Open final late Friday night at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, cruising past Alize Cornet in straight sets.
Seeded for the first time at a big event, Fernandez played up to her ranking, dominating the pace of the match, controlling rallies, and denying her veteran opponent any sense of rhythm on her way to the 6-2 6-3 victory.
The teen showed no signs of rust in her first singles match in a month, hitting 24 winners to just 16 unforced errors and only facing three break points in the match. She also won 56 percent of Cornet’s service points.
Earlier in the evening, Fernandez’s US Open final conqueror Emma Raducanu was bounced in straight sets in her first match since that clash in New York. The Canadian did not follow suit, racing out of the gate by winning eight of the first 10 points on Cornet’s serve, breaking twice on her way to a 5-0 lead after only 19 minutes.
Fernandez had three set points for the bagel on Cornet’s serve but was unable to convert. She then found herself in trouble on her own serve for the first time in the match, going down 15-40 and sending a backhand long to give one of the breaks back.
It was just a blip, as the teen quickly reestablished her control and broke right back to take the opening set.
After exchanging breaks early in the second set, Fernandez began to up her level again and made her move at 4-3, moving into position to serve for the match when Cornet double-faulted on break point.
Serving for the match, Fernandez pulled out all the stops, setting up match point with a perfect drop shot at the end of a long rally and clinching the victory with an unreturned serve.
Next up for the Canadian is ninth seed and a fellow Grand Slam runner-up in 2021, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.