MANILA, Philippines – Leylah Fernandez hopes to put some semblance of fire and purpose in a season that got off in a rather wobbly fashion as she returns to the very site of her breakthrough victory, facing Slovak Anna Schmiedlova in one of the featured matches kicking off the Abierto GNP Seguros 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico Monday.
Fernandez reigned in style here last year, nailing her first WTA championship without dropping a set in a triumph she capped with a 6-1, 6-4 romp over qualifier Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. She then went on to reach the US Women’s Open final and though she failed to complete her Cinderella run, she still came out of the Slam the new toast of women’s tennis for her amazing run of reversals against some of the event’s biggest names.
Now toting the world No. 21 ranking, the Fil-Canadian will be hard-pressed to live up to her billing as she slugs it out with her rival ranked No. 88 and at the same time snap a string of poor finishes in the early going of the season.
She bowed out in the Round of 16 in the Adelaide International I and failed to get past the first round of the first Slam, the Australian Open. She also had not much success in doubles play, her partnership with Kiwi Erin Routliffe ending in a quarterfinal run in Adelaide and in the Aussie Open Round of 64.
But the second-seeded Fernandez is so resolved to turn things around this week, eager to flash her form against Schmiedlova, a 5-foot-9 campaigner with three singles titles who reached a career high ranking of No. 26 in 2015.
The Slovak also took an early exit in the Aussie Open and reached the quarterfinals of the Abierto Akron Zapopan recently.
Fernandez also teams up with sister Bianca as they launch their doubles campaign against France’s Elixane Lechemia and Ingrid Neel of the US in a Round of 16 play Tuesday.
Bianca, however, stumbled in the qualifier, losing to Jule Niemeier of Germany, 3-6, 2-6, Sunday.
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