Photo: Martin Sidorjak
Leylah Annie Fernandez reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career, beating Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to set up a blockbuster battle with the Czech Republic’s two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. Meanwhile, a rollercoaster of a match on Suzanne-Lenglen saw Denis Shapovalov get knocked out of the French Open men’s draw after a gruelling 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 loss to Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.
Court 5, Fernandez was fresh from her 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Magna Linette. Facing Hercog for the first time in her young career, the 18-year-old would be forced to overcome another player ranked higher than her – Hercog is No. 47 and Fernandez is No. 100 – to reach the next round.
The first set included three breaks of serve in total, with two going in favour of the speedy Canadian, whilst the second saw her go down 6-3. The third was truly captivating as Fernandez showed pure relentlessness to jump out to a 4-1 lead, breaking Hercog’s serve on three occasions. The first game in particular was a monsterous undertaking, which included four break point opportunities for the Canadian in total.
With Hercog hanging on by a thread, Fernandez finally put her out of her misery, breaking her a final time to claim the deciding set emphatically 6-1. The Canadian will now face No. 7 seed Kvitova in the third round in what represents arguably the biggest challenge of her career thus far – rivalled only by her Billie Jean King Cup rubber against Belinda Bencic earlier this year.
Heading into their match, Shapovalov had never faced Carballes Baena in professional action. He was riding a wave of momentum, though, having reached the semi-finals of the Italian Open and following a first-round win over Gilles Simon. His opponent, meanwhile, had cruised past the United States’ Steve Johnson in the opening round.
The first set started poorly for Shapovalov as he dropped his second service game to give Carballes Baena a 2-1 lead. The Canadian fought back to bring the set on serve in the tenth game but was broken again just minutes later as his opponent made it 6-5, before fending off two break points to serve out the set.
The pair exchanged consecutive breaks in the first and second, as well as the 11th and 12th, games in the second set. This forced a tiebreak, in which Shapovalov came out on top.
Into the third set and Shapovalov was making some uncharacteristic mistakes. Down 40:A on his own serve, the Canadian hit a forehand long to give his opponent a 3-1 lead. Later, on set point, Carballes Baena forced a frustrated Shapovalov into hitting his return long again.
There was some rain early in the fourth set to the point that it could have forced a delay – but play continued as it only seemed to be a light shower. Shapovalov was getting vocal between points in an attempt to pump himself up. And the tactic seemed to work as he began building momentum, including a crucial break of Carballes Baena’s serve to seal the fourth set 6-3.
The fifth and final set really kicked into gear in the fifth game. Carballes Baena fought off three break points – but couldn’t deny Shapovalov at the fourth time of asking as the Canadian pressured the Spaniard into hitting a backhand return into the net.
Twice Shapovalov would serve for the match, and twice Carballes Baena would thwart him, ensuring the set continued with fans around the world perched on the edge of their seats. Poised finely at 7-6 to the Spaniard, he produced some terrific tennis to break the Canadian, who sent a forehand volley long on match point.