Leylay Annie Fernandez waves to the crowd.

Photo : Pascal Ratthe

by Max Gao

There’s no place like home.

2021 U.S. Open finalist Leylah Annie Fernandez made a winning return to her local event in Montreal on Tuesday afternoon, defeating American qualifier Peyton Stearns 6-3, 6-2, to move into the second round of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers. 

The 20-year-old, looking to rebuild her ranking after falling to No. 81 in the world, will now face off against No. 11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, who beat her at this stage of the event en route to reaching the final in Toronto last year.

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Having lost her only previous meeting with Stearns, who came out on top in a three-set tussle in Rabat a few months ago, Fernandez knew she needed to take the initiative in the early exchanges with the American. The Canadian began the match firing on all cylinders, hitting a signature forehand winner down the line to break for 3-1 and pressing home that advantage to take the opener with another well-placed serve. 

Fernandez carried that momentum into the early stages of the second set, continuing to impose her aggressive game style and quickly going up a double break on Stearns. The Canadian remained on cruise control for the rest of the match, wrapping up her first win at IGA Stadium in 75 minutes.

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Fernandez’s serve made all the difference; in addition to saving all but one of the four break points she faced in the match, she won 79% (27/34) of the points behind her first serve. It’s a trend that she will look to continue against Haddad Maia, a fellow lefty known for her attacking — and at times relentless — style of play.

Andreescu Overwhelmed by Defending Montreal Champion

In the battle of former National Bank Open champions, it was Camila Giorgi, the winner of the last women’s tournament in Montreal, who prevailed against 2019 champion and home favourite Bianca Andreescu. The big-hitting Italian, having already won two rounds to qualify for the main draw, produced a lights-out display of first-strike tennis to knock out the top Canadian 6-3, 6-2, on Tuesday night.

Andreescu, who had won her only previous meeting with Giorgi in Washington in 2017, got off to a strong start, trading blows with the World No. 51 and even creating two break points for herself in the fifth game with a big forehand winner down the line. Giorgi, however, raised her level under pressure, fighting her way to a service hold and breaking for a 4-2 lead. Andreescu created three more chances for herself to break in the following game, but much to her dismay, she was once again unable to convert any of them.

Giorgi, to her credit, continued to hit the lines and put the Canadian on the defensive with her flat, piercing groundstrokes, serving out the opening set at love and jumping out to a commanding 4-0 lead in the second. From there, the Italian never really looked back, converting her fourth match point with another big serve to eliminate the 2019 U.S. Open champion.

Giorgi, who has now won her last nine matches in Montreal, will face off against No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova tomorrow night for a spot in the round of 16.