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Fernandez shines in US Open first round, Auger-Aliassime grinds through

Aug 30, 2021
written by: Tennis Canada
written by: Tennis Canada

Leylah Fernandez faced first-seeded qualifier Ana Konjuh of Croatia in her US Open first-round matchup. The Croatian defeated Fernandez in their only previous meeting – in the qualifiers of the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open – by a score of 7-6(6), 2-6, 6-4.

The Canadian got her revenge over the World No. 88, as she overcame an early deficit and took down the Croatian 7-6(3), 6-2. Fernandez advanced to the second round of the US Open for the second year in a row.

It wasn’t the sharpest of starts for the young Canadian, as she had to save five break points in her opening service game to hold. Konjuh continued to apply pressure in the third game and earned the early break advantage after hitting a few well-struck returns on Fernandez’s serve.

Then, at risk of going down a double break in the seventh, Fernandez, who isn’t known for her serve, delivered three clutch aces to keep herself within striking distance of the Croatian.

The tenacious Fernandez then saved two match points in the 10th, broke Konjuh’s serve, and eventually overpowered the Croatian in the tiebreak.

Photo : camerawork usa

The second set was much more one-sided as the Canadian her way to a 4-0 lead. Despite serving better in the first set, Fernandez never found herself in any trouble in the second, as she only faced one break point opportunity.

Fernandez kept 76 percent of first serves in play and won 65 percent of those points. She also saved 8/10 break points and converted on 4/7 of her own.

The 18-year-old Fernandez, who’s one week away from her 19th birthday, will play Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in the second round. The winner of that match can potentially face two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round.

Auger-Aliassime survives opening test

While it was not as straightforward as it was for Fernandez, Félix Auger-Aliassime joined his fellow Montrealer in the second round of the US Open on Monday afternoon with a four-set win over Evgeny Donskoy.

Auger-Aliassime, who reached the last sixteen in New York last year, had to survive some inspired play from his opponent. At times Donskoy, who got into the draw as a qualifier, was able to outhit the 12th seed, but the Canadian ultimately saved his best tennis for the key points, eventually walking away with a 7-6(0), 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(8) victory.

The Canadian did his best to dictate play but had mixed results as displayed by his 53 winners and 48 unforced errors. He pounded 14 aces, but also committed seven double faults. He won an impressive 81 percent of his first-serve points.

Despite dictating play throughout the opening set, Auger-Aliassime was unable to convert any of his three break points and a tiebreak was required.

Donskoy managed to hold off the Canadian through the first twelve games, but could not hang on any longer. Auger-Aliassime dominated the tiebreak, shutting out the Russian 7-0 to take the opening set.  

Early in the second, Donskoy got into an Auger-Aliassime service game for the first time in the match and ripped a monstrous forehand winner to grab the first break of the match for a 3-1 lead.

Auger-Aliassime failed to create an opportunity to break back and the Russian was able to ride that one break to take the second set and level the match.

The tide was quickly turning against the Canadian as he went down love-40 on his serve at 2-all in the third set and could not handle a big return from Donskoy to go down a break.

With his back against the wall as the Russian served for the set at 5-4, Auger-Aliassime finally broke through, drawing a backhand long from Donskoy to grab his only service break in the match and level the set at 5-all.

Once again, the tiebreak was all Auger-Aliassime, as the Canadian raced ahead 4-0 and ultimately took the breaker 7-1, taking a two-sets-to-one lead.

The lone break point of the fourth set came in the opening game, but Auger-Aliassime was unable to convert, so another tiebreak was needed.

Unlike the first two, the fourth set breaker was highly competitive. Twice in the tiebreak Auger-Aliassime rallied from a minibreak down, reaching match point at 6-5 when Donskoy dumped a return into the net.

If the Russian was going down, he was going down swinging, saving it and a second match point with some massive hitting that drew errors. Auger-Aliassime then saved a set point with a perfect backhand winner up the line.

Finally, after Donskoy pulled an easy backhand wide to give the 12th seed another match point on his own serve, Auger-Aliassime closed out the victory by forcing Donskoy into another backhand error.

The match finished one minute shy of four hours.

Auger-Aliassime will meet Spaniard Bernabe Zapata Mirales in the second round.