Paris, May 27 (IANS) Canadian tennis player Leylah Fernandez reached the fourth round of French Open after triumphing 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 over No 14 seed Belinda Bencic, here on Friday.
No 17 seed Fernandez will meet No 27 seed Amanda Anisimova, who advanced after an ankle injury forced Karolina Muchova to retire trailing 6-7(7), 6-2, 3-0.
The result marks the second time Fernandez has reached the second week of a Grand Slam, following her breakthrough run to last year’s US Open final.The Canadian saved two set points in the first set, and came back from an early break down in the decider.
It is also her second win against Bencic in as many meetings. As a No 185-ranked 17-year-old facing a Top 10 opponent for the first time, she upset Bencic 6-2, 7-6(3) in the 2020 Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers. Two years on, Fernandez is ranked No 18, and her win over the Swiss player is her second Top 20 victory of 2022.
An absorbing contest saw both players mirror each other’s tactics by taking the ball early, redirecting it continually and looking for opportunities to out-manoeuvre the other.
Bencic racked up 42 to only 18 unforced errors, while Fernandez found 34 to 22 unforced errors. Both conjured up fizzing down-the-line shots, sharp angles and exquisite touch on dropshots.
Given the similarity of their games and the overall high level, the match came down to who was better able to ride out the ebbs and flows of the scoreboard. Fernandez started brightly, building a 3-0 lead, only for Bencic to win five of the next six games and serve for the first set.
But the 19-year old Fernandez forced an error with a fine forehand on the first set point and Bencic missed a putative backhand winner by inches on the second. Errors crept into Bencic’s game, and three games later she missed a short backhand to hand the set to Fernandez.
At 1-1 in the second set, Bencic received a warning for taking too much time between points – and the Olympic champion channelled her resultant frustration into her tennis. She would deliver a clinic of controlled aggression, finding 18 winners in the second set, to level the match and take a 2-0 lead in the decider.
But with a triple game point to lead 3-0, Bencic took her foot off the gas and Fernandez came up with some magnificent backhand angles to seize momentum. Notably, the teenager also improved her first serve percentage from 42 percent in the second set to 62 percent in the third, and this time it was her turn to win five out of six games to take a 5-3 lead.
Fernandez was unable to serve out the win at the first attempt, with an eighth double fault not helping. But errors from the Bencic forehand enabled her to break back immediately, and Fernandez made no mistake the second time. Three unreturned serves brought up triple match point, and Bencic netted a volley on the first.