August 10, 2023 Mathieu Belanger/Tennis Canada Danielle Collins

On Thursday night, Leylah Fernandez’s exciting run at the 2023 National Bank Open presented by Rogers came to an abrupt end at the hands of Danielle Collins of the US, who seems to have recaptured the magic of her 2022 AO run and subsequent rise to World No.7. 

After ousting Eugenie Bouchard and her fellow American Emina Bektas in the qualifying rounds, the current No.48 overpowered Elina Svitolina and Maria Sakkari in the main event.

Danielle exploded out of the starting blocks and totally subjugated Leylah with her precise and powerful shots. After 25 minutes, Collins was cruising, up a break at 4-1. After 40 minutes, it was 6-2.

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

The dismantling continued in the second set. Playing solid tennis and doing her best to fight off the relentless attacks, Fernandez was broken at zero in the eighth game and gave the 29-year-old Floridian the opportunity to serve for the match.

Collins won her second straight game at love and wrapped things up 6-2, 6-3.

She converted 3 of 10 breaks without giving any away. In the quarters, Danielle goes head-to-head with top seed Iga Swiatek late Friday afternoon.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

At the post-match presser, Leylah had only kind words for her rival and discussed how different the conditions were compared to her first two afternoon matches. “The conditions weren’t ideal. It wasn’t as hot. But it was the same conditions for my opponent, too. And I may have mismanaged my sleep for the evening match.”

Even so, Leylah’s time here got her back in the swing of things. She electrified the stadium on Thursday night and secured back-to-back wins for the first time in 2023, which means she’ll move into the Top 70 when the new rankings are released on Monday.

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

Next stop? Cincinnati.

What are her takeaways from the NBO?

“The goose bumps I felt every time I stepped onto the court, when the crowd shouted my name. It’s my favourite moment because I know people are there not just because they’ve come to see me but because they enjoy my game. And the training sessions with my father and my sister. I spent a few hours with my family, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. Those are very special moments for me.”

Waiting game

Photo: Patrice Lapointe

How do players pass the time during a rain delay or during a second rain delay? When they have to wait an hour or two or four?

It isn’t easy for elite athletes who are used to routines that work like clockwork to be stuck in a holding pattern and then have to reset for their match.  

With all the showers on Thursday, players like Iga Swiatek, Marie Bouzkova and Daria Kasatkina (pictured) had to find ways to cope.

What are some of their strategies? Sylvain Bruneau, a women’s tennis consultant at Tennis Canada who traveled the world as Bianca Andreescu’s coach in 2019, revealed some of what goes on behind-the-scenes when matches get rained out.

Photo: Paul Rivard

“Every player is different. Some will isolate with their team, and you won’t see them at all. If they’re hungry, someone from their entourage will get food. So they’re really in a bubble,” he explained.

“Some read, listen to music or play pool or board games. Some even play cards! And this isn’t a negative reflection on the women I mentioned before, but these players are more sociable. You’ll hear them laughing. It’s different from player to player. Because it can be a long time, like the Swiatek–Muchova match.”

Iga and Karolina’s duel started at 12:30 p.m. and ended more than 9 hours later, just after 9:30 p.m. There were two pauses totalling 6 hours and 10 minutes.

Photo: Paul Rivard

Nutrition is also key.

“Of course, they have to be mindful of their nutrition. When a match is delayed or there’s a pause, you always want to eat a little. But not too much because you may be called back to the court soon,” said Bruneau.

Leylah Fernandez, who was scheduled to play at 7 p.m. but got bumped to 10 p.m., was on the practice courts before the rain and warmed up again before her match.

“If it stops raining, we’ll try to dry an outer court for her so she can hit,” he added. 

Ultimately, the players need to find ways to adapt. “The key is to be flexible and adaptable. If you’re too set in your ways and routines and can’t adjust, it gets disruptive.”

How long does it take to get ready for a match?

“It depends. You can’t start getting ready three hours ahead of time. Before jumping onto the court, the players will start the process. Some get on a bike or a treadmill, others will do drills with their coach and others will do legwork with a jump rope or ladders,” he said.

“One’s thing’s for sure: they really don’t like going out there for a short time and stopping again like Muchova and Swiatek did today [Thursday]. But you can’t control that.”

And what do the players do when the entire day gets washed out? They don’t hang around the hotel. They’ll come to the stadium to train, or the tournament will reserve an indoor court for them.

Photo: Comité des Promotions / OBN 2023