August 8, 2023 Pascal Ratthe/Tennis Canada Leylah Fernandez (CAN)

There were clouds over IGA Stadium today, but it was clear sailing for Leylah Fernandez.

Up second on Centre Court after Caroline Wozniacki, she confidently dominated No.57 Peyton Stearns of the US to move into the next round of her tournament, in her hometown.

The current No.81 could have been bothered by her hard-hitting opponent, but she went virtually blow for blow and thwarted the American with her crosscourt and down the line winners.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

Down 0-40 in the fourth game of the second set, the Montrealer dug deep to secure the next five points. The crowd went bananas, and Leylah never looked back, wrapping things up in 76 minutes, 6-3, 6-2.

“The crowd was amazing, today,” she said afterwards. “I felt their positivity and their emotions, and I was happy to be able to play in front of so many people in the stands. First round matches are always difficult, and I was nervous because I wanted to do well in front of them.”

Today’s match was her second clash with Stearns, who won their third-setter in Morocco last May.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

A lot of fans said they saw glimpses of 2021 Leylah who earned a spot in the 2021 US Open final, but Leylah herself sees things differently. What’s more, she believes she’s a better player today than she was two years ago.

“In 2021, I was a completely different person. Right now, I have the experience. Now, I’m actually better than I was in 2021 and we’re trying to build on that, keep working hard, trusting the process. Mistakes will happen and matches will be lost, but the most important thing is to make the necessary corrections.”

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

Today’s match also happens to be her very first WTA victory in Montréal. In 2018, she won her first qualifying match on an outer court at the age of 16 when she ousted Alicja Rosolska of Poland.

In round 2, Leylah will collide with No.12 Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, who defeated Magdalena Frech of Poland (6-4, 6-2). Haddad Maia got as far as the semis at Roland-Garros and the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

Bianca makes a quick exit

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

The first match of the evening session on Centre Court pitted NBO champion vs. NBO champion: 2019 winner Bianca Andreescu vs. 2021 winner Camila Giorgi.

And like Leylah, the No.41 got a tremendous welcome from the fans in the stands.

But then things got complicated.

After a great start, the Canadian was broken at 2-3. She earned three breaks in the next game, but the No.51 secured the next five points to consolidate and eventually take the set 6-3.

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

Despite being devoted Bianca supporters, the crowd still cheered for Camila. Playing solid tennis with a lot of power, she dictated most of the rallies and forced an overwhelmed Andreescu to make error after error. 

The second set was settled swiftly. Trailing 4-0 after dropping her first two service games, Bianca took her leave at 6-2.

Camila Giorgi got another big round of applause when she answered the post-match interviewer’s questions in French.

Later that night, Bianca met with the media to try to explain what went wrong. The first question she was asked was about a possible injury, since she didn’t seem to be competing at her best.

“Last week during my match in Washington, I experienced some back pain. Some SI [sacroiliac] joint pain, to be exact. I’ve had this before. I’ve had to deal with it many times, actually,” she explained.

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

“It got better for a few days, and then, you know, I started playing again, and then obviously I felt some irritation, but I saw some light at the end of the tunnel. But with SI joint pain, it’s very difficult because it’s nothing very serious. But if you do push, you do feel a lot of pain. That’s what I experienced one of the days practicing before the tournament. And then, you know, practice and competing in a tournament is totally different. So obviously today I felt it a bit more, and it did impact my performance, sadly.”

Needless to say, her disappointment was palpable.

Photo: Paul Rivard

When asked about Cincinnati, which is the next stop on the Tour before the US Open, Bianca said she was undecided.

“It just sucks that it started during this tournament. Yeah, it really sucks. I don’t know if I’m going to play Cincinnati. The goal is obviously US Open.”

Dabrowski advances

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

In doubles, Gabriela Dabrowski and Canadian-born New Zealander Erin Routtliff moved on to round two with a win over Karolina Pliskova of Czechia and Donna Vekic of Croatia.

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

After claiming the first set 6-3 and losing the second 6-4, they took the third set 10-8 after 88 minutes of play. 

Bouchard and Marino come this close

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

In the last match of the day with Canadian competitors, the unlikely veteran duo Eugenie Bouchard and Rebecca Marino generated a tonne of excitement on Court No.9.

Taking on the sixth seeds Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine, Rebecca and Eugenie were broken twice but fought their way back to win the first set 7-6(6).

Down 5-1 in the second, the Canadians clawed their way to 5-4 but it wasn’t enough. In the third and decisive set, they went to the limit but came up just short, 10-8.

Photo: Mathieu Belanger

Late Monday night, Rebecca was pushed out of the singles draw by Katie Boulter of Great Britain (6-3, 6-1).