Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC) won her first professional singles title on Sunday at the Gatineau National Bank Challenger. The tournament featured a mixed draw, with the men competing in the $54,160 ATP Challenger event and the women competing in the $25,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event. The tournament was held from July 15 to 21 at Parc de l’Île in Gatineau.
For the first time in the history of the tournament, there were two Canadians playing in the women’s singles final. On Sunday, Leylah Annie Fernandez and Carson Branstine (Orange, CA), who needed to qualify to reach the main draw, were facing off for only the second time in their careers, having previously met at the Grade 2 junior tournament in Montreal back in 2015 where it was Branstine who got the better of her compatriot.
Playing in front of a nearly sold out crowd, it was the slightly more experienced Branstine who got off to a hot start in the match, getting a late break in the first to take the set. Despite the heat, both players were involved in hard hitting rallies. In the second, Branstine was experiencing some difficulties on court and had to call for the trainer. Once play resumed, Fernandez stepped up her game to bring the match to one set all. In the decider, the 16-year-old Laval native capitalized on her early opportunities, inching her way closer to her first professional title. Fernandez achieved the feat after just under two hours of play, defeating her compatriot by a score of 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. She becomes the second player to capture both the singles and doubles titles in Gatineau, after Bianca Andreescu who did it in 2016.
“It was a tough match today, I’ve known Carson for a long time and we are good friends. Of course I am happy with the win, but I am also very happy for Carson because she had a great week. I am satisfied with the way I played this week. You learn something from every match, no matter a win or a loss, and I feel like I am leaving Gatineau with more experience which will hopefully help me in the future,” stated Fernandez after capturing her first professional single’s title.
In the men’s final, Jason Kubler of Australia won his first title of the year, having been crowned champion at two Challenger events in 2018, including one in Winnipeg. In Sunday’s final, the 26-year-old Australian was taking on Enzo Couacaud of France, who was taking part in the tournament in Gatineau for the very first time. After exchanging breaks in the opening set, both players settled down into their game and engaged in numerous extended rallies. It was at the end of the set that Kubler took advantage of a few mistakes from his opponent to get the break he needed to take the lead. He continued his momentum into the second and found himself serving for the match. The Frenchman did not go down without a fight, but was unable to complete the comeback. After a little over and hour and a half of play, Kubler notched the 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“It has been a very hot here these past few days and I want to thank everyone who came out to support us. I know that it was appreciated by all f the players. I would also like to take a minute to congratulate the ball kids on their excellent work this week. They toughed through some long matches and the very hot conditions. I enjoyed my experience in Gatineau this week and I hope to be back next year,” stated Kubler after his victory.
The Gatineau National Bank Challenger is the first of two mixed draw tournaments held in Quebec during the month of July. The tournament will be followed by the Granby National Bank Challenger.