For a short time on a cool afternoon on the spacious Philippe Chatrier Court, it would be fair to assume that Belinda Bencic is leaving with her third-round match quickly. She countered from a first-set deficit to leveling at one set everything, and then she established a 2-0, 40-0 lead, distancing herself in the final set.
But during her short career, Leylah Fernandez, who has stood motionless across the net, has shown that these tense moments with her back to the wall are often when the best version of her appears. Fernandez took the break in that game, went through five of the next six games and defeated Bencic 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 to reach the last 16 of the. French Open for the first time.
Eight months have passed since two teenagers, Fernandez and Emma Raducanu, faced off in the final of the US Open and not just Raducanu, whose experiences have demonstrated the complicated nature of pursuing a breakthrough outcome. While Fernandez, 19, won a round in most tournaments and even won the Monterrey Open in February, her second career WTA title, that tournament brought the only quarterfinal she had reached since September.
The Canadian is extremely ambitious and focused, and these results have not met the extremely high standards she sets for herself. But as Fernandez described her first five months of the season as “up and down,” she rated her progress with striking maturity.
“We don’t see it as – how do I say this?” “Like a failure, the first five months,” she said. “I see it more because I have a lot to improve and I can just get better. What we want to do is just get better, because that’s the beauty of tennis, that we have a tournament every week and I can just keep working on some technical things, some tactical things. If it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t work, we can just go back to the drawing board and get ready for the next few weeks and tournaments. “
In the time since New York City, Fernandez has seen her profile transformed in Canada and a host of supports have followed. Her Subway commercial is often aired, she has a new dress deal with Lululemon, and her new outfit is branded with commercials for Morgan Stanley and Easypost. More than anything, however, she was determined to reproduce the tennis she produced there.
“I think after the U.S. Open I put a little more pressure on myself,” she said. “It’s normal because I want to replicate what I did at the US Open again and again. I think that after the first tournaments, I accepted that I would not play the same way every time.
“I just have to find solutions and keep working hard. During the year, I just kept doing that, just putting my head down and just grinding it every day. “
The Parisian clay pots are a fitting place for Fernandez’s first decent performance in a major this year. She already has a genealogy on clay: junior champion of the French Open in 2019, a year later she returned as the top 100 player and reached the third round. Against Bencic, she showed all the different accents of her game that match the surface so well: her heavy left forearm, the sharp angles she can generate from both wings of all parts of the court, and her penchant for smooth fall shots are all. home on the surface.
For Fernandez and all the other players around her in the bottom half of the draw, this is a huge opportunity. Earlier in the day, Bencic, ranked 14th, was the highest-ranked seed left in the section after Barbora Krejcikova, Garbiñe Muguruza, Anett Kontaveit, Ons Jabeur and Maria Sakkari all lost in the first five days.
Many are young players. Amanda Anisimova, 20, moved into the fourth round with a slice of luck after Karina Muchova retired as Anisimova led 6-7 (7) 6-2, 3-0. Coco Gauff, still just 18, calmly tackled Kaia Kanepi, 36, to reach the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.