Photo: Susan Mullane/camerawork usa
Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez (no. 73) continued her winning ways Wednesday at the U.S. Open with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi (no. 70). Fernandez advances to the third round of the American Grand Slam for the first time in her career. In her first appearance in 2020, she reached the second round before losing to American Sofia Kenin in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.
Both players put on a great show in the first set. 36-year-old Kanepi, a former Top 20 player, quickly put her vast experience to good use, hitting 16 winners compared to Fernandez’s 8. However, she committed 10 more unforced errors than her 18-year-old opponent, which ultimately cost her the set 7-5.
The momentum seemed to change at the beginning of the second frame. As soon as play resumed, Fernandez conceded a first break to the Estonian, allowing her to quickly take a 3-1 lead. The Canadian remained calm and resilient despite two rain delays. Taking advantage of the numerous errors by her rival (24), Fernandez regained control of the match and leveled the score at 5-5. She completed the comeback a few minutes later to win the set 7-5.
This is the first time Fernandez has won back-to-back matches in the main draw of a tournament since winning the title in Monterrey in March. She will hope to continue to build on her strong performances in the third round on Friday against reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka.
This will be the first meeting between the Canadian and the world no. 3 from Japan. Fernandez has a record of one win and two losses against Top 10 players. In February 2020, she defeated Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, then No. 5, in a playoff match at the Billie Jean King Cup. However, she will have her work cut out for her if she is to beat Osaka, who has only lost two hard court matches to players outside the Top 50 in the last two years: in Cincinnati last week against eventual finalist Jill Teichmann (no. 71) and at the 2020 Australian Open against American prodigy Cori Gauff (no. 64).