Photo: Abierto GNP Seguros
Leylah Fernandez obviously enjoys playing in Mexico.
The Canadian reached the first WTA final of her young career in Acapulco last year and is threatening to reach another here in Monterrey. She’s given herself a chance, at least, having made the semi-finals of the Abierto GNP Seguros following a 7-5, 6-3 win over Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia.
This meeting represented the first between the two players on the WTA Tour. Kuzmova, known more for her doubles exploits – though, she currently holds a fair singles ranking of No. 104 – is four years older than Fernandez but is still considered a youngster at just 22 years old.
Heading into this match, the Slovakian had overcome American Caroline Dolehide and Great Britain’s Harriet Dart – both in straight sets – while Fernandez had seen off the challenge of CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States and Slovakia’s Kristína Kučová en route to the quarter-finals.
The first set of this last-eight encounter – being played on a warm 23-degree Monterrey afternoon – started with an immediate break as Fernandez dropped her serve at the first time of asking. However, she fought back to level things up at 3-3 just a few games later as Kuzmova double faulted down 30:40.
It remained on serve – with Fernandez unable to convert the match’s first set point up 5-4* – until the 12th game, which had enough twists and turns to keep the broadcast audience enthralled, when Kuzmova double faulted again on break point to hand the Canadian the set 7-5.
Confidence was clearly flowing through Fernandez as she took a decisive 2-0 lead in the second set. Up 40:30 on Kuzmova’s serve, the teenager sealed an early break with a strong backhand return which the Slovakian could only parry into the net. She then doubled her advantage to 4-0 thanks to a second break after her opponent was unable to land a stretching forehand in play at the end of another fiercely contested point.
Kuzmova did fight back with a break of her own on her way to winning three successive games, but Fernandez was determined to put the match to bed. And she did just that by holding her next service game to seal her passage through to the semi-finals.
There, she will face either Anna Karolína Schmiedlová of Slovakia or seventh seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. Sorribes Tormo will be familiar to Canadian tennis fans after she toppled Montrealer Genie Bouchard in last weekend’s final of the Abierto Zapopan championships in Guadalajara.