Leylah Fernandez follows through on a backhand. She lost to Jasmine Paolini on Tuesday in Dubai.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

Leylah Annie Fernandez was unable to recreate her magic from Doha the previous week at the second of back-to-back WTA 1000s in the Middle East, losing to Jasmine Paolini in straight sets in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

The Canadian struggled to pull away despite striking first in both sets as a persistent Paolini kept clawing back, eventually scoring her first win over Fernandez 6-3, 6-4. 

Efficiency was lacking from Fernandez during the round-two match, as she only won 54 per cent of her first serve points and converted just three of her 11 break point opportunities, while only saving two of seven against her own serve.  

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Having won all six sets in their previous three meetings, Fernandez seemed to still have Paolini’s number as she won the first eight points on the Italian’s serve to break twice. However, she failed to hold serve in between those two breaks to keep Paolini within striking distance.

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A lack of sharpness from the Canadian allowed her opponent to stay in the set and eventually level at 3-3. The Italian started to find her range from the baseline and Fernandez was not doing enough to break the rhythm. Paolini won five games in a row, including a critical hold from love-40 down in an epic seventh game, to take the opening set. 

Fernandez seemed to right the ship as she raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but once again Paolini was able to reel her back in. The Canadian was leaving too many balls in the middle of the court, allowing her opponent to tee off and dictate the rallies. 

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The result was another big comeback for the Italian, who after saving a break point that would have seen her go down 5-1, went on another five-game run to score her first victory over Fernandez. 

In the first round, the Canadian had defeated Bernarda Pera in straight sets, breaking serve in four of the American’s five service games on her way to victory. Fernandez has now won at least one match in each of the last four WTA 1000 main draws.