Leylah Fernandez reaches to hit a backhand during her opening Australian Open match.

Photo : @WTAGuadalajara

Leylah Annie Fernandez got off to a solid start in her 2024 Australian Open campaign on Sunday in Melbourne, holding off 17-year-old Sara Bejlek for a straight-set win in their first-round match. 

The 32nd-seeded Canadian bookended the match with her best tennis, getting off to a quick start and finishing strong after Bejlek upped her level in the middle of the match. In the end, it was Fernandez moving into the second round with a 7-6(5), 6-2 win.  

Constant pressure paid off for Fernandez as she ripped 27 winners to her opponent’s 17 and created nine break-point opportunities, converting four. She also brought some of her doubles experience to the singles court, attacking the net frequently and winning 14 of 17 points when coming in. 

Fernandez got off to a perfect start, breaking in the opening game with one of her patented big returns that drew an error. Both women found themselves having to battle through service games early in the first set and Bejlek was able to level at 3-3 with a clever drop shot that caught Fernandez by surprise. 

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The tiebreak at the end of the first was about as tight as a breaker gets, with neither player leading by more than a point until the very end. With Fernandez up 5-6 and Bejlek serving down set point, the Canadian used her brilliant defence to keep the point alive before the young Czech finally cracked, spraying a backhand wide to surrender the set. 

Bejlek quickly put the disappointment of the tiebreaker behind her as she broke Fernandez to start the second set. However, Fernandez immediately broke back and started to take her game to another level. 

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Five of the next six games went the way of the Canadian as she upped the aggression in the rallies and Bejlek struggled to keep up. From 2-2, practically every point was either a Fernandez winner or a Bejlek unforced error as the Canadian lost just four points in the final four games to book her place in the second round. 

In round two, Fernandez will meet American Alycia Parks. The 32nd seed is looking to reach the third round of the Australian Open for the first time in her career. She and Parks have never met on tour. 

Monday will be a busy day for the Canadian men in Melbourne, with all three playing their opening matches in the singles draw. Milos Raonic features in the primetime match on Rod Laver Arena against local favourite Alex de Minaur at 7:00 pm local, 3:00 am EST in Canada.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime will take on Dominic Thiem in the final match of the day on Margaret Court Arena, while Denis Shapovalov is third up on Court 7 against Jakub Mensik. 

You can watch along and support the Canadians competing in Melbourne on TSN and RDS.