After a disappointing loss in the 2020 Mexican Open, Leylah Fernandez is making a comeback as she works her way towards the WTA top 10.
Leylah Fernadez won her first WTA title last week at the age of 18. After a disappointing loss in the finals at Acapulco last year, Fernandez made a comeback at the WTA 250 event in Monterrey by defeating Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic. Fernandez’s long awaited WTA title is finally hers.
Fernandez was seen as a rising star in the tennis world right around the time of the 2020 Mexican Open. She had been training in Boynton Beach, Florida and was able to play in the Rogers Cup with reigning Wimbledon champion, Simona Halep, as her doubles partner in the fall of 2019.
Halep said she admired Fernandez’s drive and saw a bit of herself in the young player. Halep is just one of many veteran players that have motivated Fernandez to strive for the intensity she plays with today, and getting to play alongside one of them was an invaluable experience for the player at only 17. Veterans such as Halep taught her the importance of persevering even after a disappointing loss.
In February of 2020, Fernandez arrived at the Mexican Open final with high hopes of becoming the youngest winner in the history of the tournament. She was already the first Candian and the youngest finalist to ever play in the tournament, but getting to top it off with a win at the age of 17 would have been the cherry on top for Fernandez. Sadly this was not the case and Fernandez was beat by Britain’s Heather Watson in an intense matchup. Fernandez didn’t go down without a fight; she won the second set and gave Watson a run for her money throughout the match. Last year’s efforts foreshadowed Fernandez’s comeback this year.
After Fernandez was defeated in the 2020 Mexican Open, that ambition and a fighting spirit allowed her to set her eyes on one thing—her first WTA title. Although the unforeseen cancellation of tournaments due to Covid-19 put a halt on the 2020 season, Fernandez was able to pick up where she left off.
With last year’s loss on her mind, Fernandez went into the Monterrey tournament with a wide range of built up emotions fueling her fire. She remained composed and on her A-game as she walked into her match against Golubic. Neither player had lost a set all tournament long and both were determined to win the final. Fernandez was ranked just 14 places above Golubic at No. 88 on the WTA tour.
Fernandez came out strong with a 5-0 lead, allowed Golubic one match, but then finished the first set 6-1. Fernandez played some of her best tennis with an aggressive momentum that carried her through the next set. She continued to strike powerfully and return Golubic’s difficult hits. The second set consisted of both players giving it all they had tying the set at 4-all at one point. Fernandez broke for a 5-4 lead, even with Golubic making good use of her one-handed backhand and reducing her unforced errors. Finally, Fernandez triumphed in her first WTA title victory with an unreturnable open court forehand—the final score was 6-4 and she did not drop a set all week.
Fernandez doesn’t plan on stopping with just one WTA title, but hopes to win a top 10 ranking this season among other tournament wins. She has already worked her way up to No. 72 in the rankings, jumping 16 places and putting her 66 spots ahead of her No. 138 rank at the beginning of 2021. Fernandez’s achievements at Monterrey show that she will continue to work tirelessly to accomplish her goal. Her hard work is finally coming to the surface, and we can’t wait to see what she will do next.