Leylah Fernandez prepares to blow a kiss to the crowd.

Photo : Mauricio Paz

Canadian women remain undefeated in singles at the Miami Open after Leylah Annie Fernandez defeated Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-4, 6-3 in the opening round of the WTA 1000 tournament on Wednesday. The 20-year-old joins Bianca Andreescu, Rebecca Marino, and Katherine Sebov in round two.

Fernandez got off to a slow start and quickly found herself down 0-4 with two breaks of serve to overcome in the opening set, but she righted the ship in impressive fashion, reeling off six consecutive games to suddenly find herself with a one set advantage.

She managed to turn the match around after struggling to find her rhythm at the outset thanks to some clever play at the net and remaining aggressive in her approach. Fernandez once again went down a break right out of the gate in set two, but just like the opening frame, she quickly erased the deficit with pinpoint accuracy and some great angles on her groundstrokes. She controlled the outcome of most of the points and rarely let Tsurenko dictate the proceedings. The win is the first of her career at the Miami Open. 

It was a business-like performance from Fernandez that will give her an important confidence boost ahead of her much-anticipated matchup against ninth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland on Friday. The two players have split their four previous meetings with Fernandez’s most recent victory coming in the third round at Roland-Garros last year. Meanwhile, Bencic has won the last two matches between the two.

Earlier in the day, Bianca Andreescu was looking like her old self again on Wednesday at the Miami Open, winning a blockbuster round one clash with fellow former US Open champion Emma Raducanu in three sets.

For most of the match, the 2019 champion in New York used her variety to deny the 2021 winner any rhythm as Andreescu booked another high-profile match in round two against seventh seed Maria Sakkari with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win.

Both women had more errors than winners, but Andreescu managed to draw 40 unforced errors of the young Brit’s racket while just committing 34 of her own. The Canadian also had significantly more winners, 32 to 20. Break point conversion was also critical. Raducanu had more chances with 12 but only converted one, while Andreescu broke serve three times on 11 opportunities.

It took a game for Andreescu to find her rhythm as she had to rally from love-30 down in her opening service game. But she quickly got to work disrupting her British opponent and coaxed consecutive shots long from deuce to break Raducanu for a 2-0 lead.

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The serve was locked in throughout the opening set for the Canadian and her crafty ground game kept Raducanu from getting comfortable. While Andreescu missed a backhand at 4-1 that would have given her a double break lead, she never gave the Brit a chance to get back in the opening set, losing just six points on serve.

Raducanu managed to reset to start the second set and had her first look at a break in the second game, but the Canadian’s serve bailed her out again.

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Still, the Brit was in the ascendency as the set went along and she began to find her range. Raducanu held serve from love-30 at 3-all and then heaped the pressure on Andreescu in an epic seventh game. The Canadian managed to save five break points with some bold hitting before finally missing a forehand to drop serve for the first time.

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At the start of the deciding set, Raducanu had a chance to take a stranglehold on the momentum as she went she went up love-40 on the Canadian’s serve, but a forehand winner followed by two big serves from Andreescu erased the threat.

It was then Andreescu’s turn to hold three break points at 2-1, but she was unable to convert. But two games later, Raducanu double-faulted to give the Canadian another pair and this time on the second, some smart ball placement from Andreescu drew an error to claim a 4-2 lead.

Raducanu made one last push to get back in the match when she had a break back point in the following game, but drove a backhand into the net. That was the last gasp for the Brit, who fired a forehand wide to be broken for the match in the following game.

In the second round, Andreescu will renew hostilities with Sakkari. The pair split their previous two meetings, both epic three-setters on the US hard courts in 2021, including a thrilling third-set-tiebreak win for Andreescu at this same event in Miami.

On Thursday, Marino and Sebov will take to Stadium Court in Miami when they take on a pair of top American seeds in the second round. Marino will face Coco Gauff and Sebov, who won her maiden WTA 1000 match on Tuesday, will take on Jessica Pegula.