In her first match since the French Open, No. 13 seed and former U.S. Open finalist Leylah Fernandez outlasted Australian qualifier Storm Sanders, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3, to record her first victory on Monday night at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
The Montreal native will now face off against another lefty in the form of Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, who defeated Italy’s Martina Trevisan in three sets earlier in the day.
Fernandez, who has been sidelined for a couple of months due to a stress fracture in her foot, showed little signs of rust in her early exchanges with Sanders, who had already become acclimated with the faster conditions at Sobeys Stadium after winning two matches in qualifying over the weekend.
While both women had their fair share of chances to draw first blood, it was ultimately Sanders who blinked first, double faulting on set point to hand a one-set advantage to Fernandez.
After trading early breaks in the second set, Fernandez and Sanders both cruised on serve until the 10th game, when the Canadian began to force the issue with the finish line in sight. Sanders, however, quickly found a second wind, raising her level at precisely the right time to fend off two match points. She was able to parlay that momentum into a one-sided tiebreak, which she took to draw level at one-set-all.
With little to separate both women, Fernandez earned a crucial break in the fifth game of the final set, but the deciding factor came at 4-3, when the home favourite had to fend off three break points in a marathon 20-point game. Once she was able to hold serve, Fernandez quickly pressed home her advantage, breaking once more to punch her ticket to the second round in Toronto after two hours and 41 minutes.
Joining Fernandez in the next round is Swiss left-hander Jil Teichmann, who knocked out seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, 6-2, 6-3, in 75 minutes to close out the drama-filled day on Centre Court.
Teichmann, who is now sitting at a career-high ranking of No. 21 in the world, quickly jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set as Williams, who was playing just her second singles match of the year, struggled to find her range. The second set began with five service breaks in a row before Teichmann steadied the ship, consolidating her advantage and later breaking once more to wrap up the match in straight sets.