Leylah Fernandez hits a backhand. She lost to Elena Rybakina in the Doha quarter-finals.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

Once Elena Rybakina gets rolling, there is little anyone can do to stop her which is something Leylah Annie Fernandez learned the hard way in their Doha quarter-final on Thursday. 

The world No. 4 put an end to the Canadian’s strong run at the first WTA 1000 event of 2024, bouncing her in the last eight in straight sets. 

Despite a strong start, there was little Fernandez could do once Rybakina found her rhythm. The Kazahstani overpowered the young Canadian to deny her of a first WTA 1000 semifinal with a 6-4, 6-2 win. 

Rybakina’s power was a difference-maker in the match as she fired 24 winners to the Canadian’s 17, while committing two fewer errors (32 to 34). Fernandez faced constant pressure on serve, winning just 35 per cent of her second serve points and staring down 11 break points, of which she saved six. Rybakina also defended her own serve well, winning 79 per cent of her first serve points. 

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In the early stages, Fernandez was taking the ball early and refusing to let Rybakina get control of the rallies. Denying her opponent a rhythm, the Canadian was able to break twice to race ahead 4-1. 

But as the set went along, the former Wimbledon champion began to find her range with her groundstrokes. Rybakina’s big hitting started to break down Fernandez’s defence and the errors began to creep into the Canadian’s game. Using her big shots to do the damage, Rybakina broke three times in a five-game run to take the opening set. 

Fernandez had a chance to reset when she fired a forehand winner to set up a break point in the opening game, but Rybakina responded with a forehand winner of her own.  

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At that point, it was back to the world No. 4 applying pressure and Fernandez doing what she could to prevent Rybakina from pulling away. But the Canadian could only hang on for so long. The Kazakhstani got the break for a 4-2 lead and never looked back, winning the last four games in a row to eliminate Fernandez. 

Even in defeat, it was a good week for the Canadian in Doha as she knocked off two seeded opponents, including a Top 10 winner over Qinwen Zheng, and got her first win over Paula Badosa. Fernandez will look to build on her performance at another WTA 1000 event next week in Dubai.