Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Fantastic Fernandez faces Polish puzzle

The opening day of the tournament did produce a great match as Liudmila Samsonova won a hard-fought battle against Paula Badosa


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Leylah Fernandez hits a return during her first round match in Dubai. — Photo by Ehaab Qadeer
Leylah Fernandez hits a return during her first round match in Dubai. — Photo by Ehaab Qadeer

Published: Sun 19 Feb 2023, 11:18 PM

Having failed to build on her stunning run to the US Open final in 2021, Leylah Fernandez has arrived on these shores hoping to put her career back on track.

The 20-year-old Canadian needs to look no further than the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships for inspiration.

The first tournament in the world to offer equal prize money to women, the Dubai championships have delivered world-class tennis year after year, winning admiration from some of the greatest players that ever lived.

The supremely talented Fernandez is the greatest hope for millions of tennis fans back home in Canada.

But to reach the greatest heights in the sport, Fernandez needs to show the hunger to keep improving and the resilience to overcome the toughest challenges.

At the Dubai centre court on Sunday, Fernandez showed the full repertoire of her shots, clinically dismantling Julia Grabher 6-4, 6-2 in her opening round clash.

Born to an Ecuadorian father and a Canadian-Filipino mother, Fernandez drew a large number of Filipino and Canadian fans to the centre court.

And the world number 39 needed just 74 minutes to send Grabher packing, much to the delight of Dubai’s Filipino community.

“Thank you for coming to the stadium and supporting me. It means a lot,” Fernandez said during her on-court interview.

“I think what I enjoyed most was the atmosphere, I loved the crowd, the way it was cheering for us, it meant a lot. Hopefully you guys will be able to come for my next match.”

Grabher, the Austrian qualifier, lacked the class to challenge Fernandez who loves to solve puzzles during her free time.

But in her next match in Dubai, Fernandez must solve a Polish puzzle as her next round opponent is none other than Iga Swiatek, the world number one and three-time Grand Slam winner who won her 12th WTA title in Doha last Saturday.

“I hope I will be able to execute my plan as well as I can, but I am going to enjoy my time on the court,’ she said.

“She has been playing amazing in the last couple of years and I am sure it’s going to be a great match.”

The opening day of the tournament did produce a great match as Liudmila Samsonova won a hard-fought three-set battle against Spaniard Paula Badosa.

The 14tn seeded Russian staged a stunning fightback to beat Badosa 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 to advance to the second round in Dubai, having finished runner-up at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open earlier this month.

“Yes, I'm very, very happy about this (victory). I didn't expect the result in Abu Dhabi. It was unbelievable for me,” Badosa told reporters.

The dramatic three-set encounter lasted three hours and 22 minutes, the longest match on the women’s Tour this year.

But it was a cakewalk for two-time Grand Slam winner Petra Kvitova who was too strong for Martina Trevisan in her 6-2, 6-1 win.

The action will get intense, though, on Monday as Grand Slam winners Elena Rybakina, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka will open their campaigns.


Women’s singles first round

Centre Court

Liudmila Samsonova (14) beat Paula Badosa 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4

Petra Kvitova beat Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-1

Madison Keys beat Jasmine Paolini 6-1, 6-1

Leylah Fernandez beat Julia Grabher 6-4, 6-2

Marta Kostyuk beat Ipek Oz 4-6, 6-4, 6-2

Court One

Barbora Krejcikova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 6-4, 6-2

Marie Bouzkova beat Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-1

Amanda Anisimova beat Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2

Linda Fruhvirtova beat Danielle Collins 6-3 6-4

Court Three

Dayana Yastremska beat Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-3

Qinwen Zheng beat Shuai Zhang 6-3, 6-1

Viktoriya Tomova beat Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-1

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