TORONTO — Canada's Leylah Fernandez made her return to the court Monday night with a 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win against Australian Storm Sanders in the opening round of the National Bank Open.
For Fernandez, of Laval, Que., it's her first time in competition since suffering a stress fracture in her foot during a quarterfinal loss to Martina Trevisan on May 31.
After the start time had been delayed due to the earlier suspension of Sloane Stephens' match against Sofia Kenin, and their final set needing to be finished, Fernandez and Sanders wasted little time getting to work.
The first game alone featured four deuces, which Fernandez was able to close out with a forehand. It was one of four games in the first set to consist of deuces, with the other three going to one, six and one.
The 13th-ranked Fernandez will next play Brazil's Beatriz Maia on Wednesday.
Up 3-2, Fernandez got the better of Sanders on a couple of exchanges, including one with a light forehand that she whizzed by the Australian. At 40-all, it was Sanders who used an ace and a strong forehand to quickly tie things up.
After taking the next game, Fernandez found herself in another 40-all situation, this time with six deuces as both players lost their advantages on unforced errors or the other getting by on clutch forehand shots.
After the 19-year-old missed on three break point opportunities, a Sanders forehand tied it once more at 4-4.
Up 5-4 in the match but down 15-40 in the 10th game, Fernandez fired back with impressive forehands to tie it up with another deuce, the last one going down the left side line.
With Sanders serving and it being set point, Fernandez benefited from a double fault to win it 6-4.
In the second set, the tide had turned in the favour of the 20th-ranked Sanders.
Sanders closed the first game on a forehand after taking the advantage after a deuce, then went up 40-15 before closing the next game on another forehand going the opposite way from Fernandez to go up 2-0.
After multiple double faults, Fernandez found herself back in it with a couple forehands going by Sanders. After a swift forehand landed her the advantage, an error from Sanders cut the deficit to 2-1.
Fernandez turned up the intensity from there.
Fernandez strung together her second straight game, as Sanders struggled with errors, missing on three consecutive shots after a forehand landed Fernandez a 15-0 lead.
Up 5-4, Fernandez missed on an opportunity to close the set and match as the game went to deuce three times before two misses from the Canadian allowed Sanders to tie it up again.
After trading the next two games, Fernandez struggled with unforced errors, going wide and hitting the net, as Sanders took the final game 7-2 to win the set 7-6 (2).
In the final set, both players found themselves in another back and forth — until Fernandez once again figured a way to win consecutive games. A cross-court forehand later followed by an unforced error from Sanders, put Fernandez up 3-2 after being down 2-1.
After trading games, and Fernandez up 4-3, the two players went to six deuces before a Fernandez forehand and another error from Sanders put the Canadian up 5-3.
With a chance to advance on the line, Fernandez delivered with the home crowd behind her.
In a deuce like many other times on the night, Fernandez took the advantage on a Sanders' shot that hit the net. Sanders missed again, going beyond the baseline as a relieved Fernandez closed the set and match 6-3.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2022
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press