• March 20, 2023

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Canada’s Leylah Fernandez outduels Pavlyuchenkova to advance at Indian Wells

Canadian Leylah Fernandez rallied from an error-filled first set to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a marathon match in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open Sunday night.

Fernandez advanced to the round of 16 at Indian Wells, Calif., with a come-from-behind 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 triumph in a match that lasted two hours and 42 minutes.

The 19-year-old from Laval, Que., showed the same poise and resilience that saw her make a deep run at the U.S. Open last month where she lost to Britain’s Emma Raducanu in the final.

Seeded 23rd at Indian Wells after that surprising run at Flushing Meadows, the Canadian teenager overcame a difficult first set to take control in the second before pulling ahead late in a back-and-forth third.

Fernandez broke the No. 9 seed Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the third set to go up 3-2. Up 4-3 the Canadian then fought off two break points to put her on the edge of victory.

The pro-Fernandez crowd celebrated when she fired an ace on match point — her second ace of the match.

“Thank you so much for sticking around and watching me play,” she told the fans. “It definitely helped.

“What I’m most proud of is the way that I fought. I fought for every point.”

The cheers and applause from the Indian Wells crowd will likely be more split in the round of 16 when Fernandez faces American Shelby Rogers.

It didn’t always look like Fernandez was on her way to victory versus the 13th-ranked player in the world.

The 30-year-old Pavlyuchenkova broke the Canadian’s serve three consecutive times in the first set. Fernandez committed 18 unforced errors, six double faults and only won 29 per cent of her second-serve points in that opening set.

Fernandez was broken again to start the second but settled down from there and her service game improved. She fought off four break points in a lengthy fifth game before breaking Pavlyuchenkova to go up 5-3.

After holding serve to win the second set, the Canadian looked even better in the third, making fewer mistakes en route to victory.

Fernandez saved nine of 13 break points in the match while winning 69 per cent of first-serve points.

Fernandez, who acquired her first WTA title this year at the Monterrey Open in March, defeated France’s Alize Cornet in the second round on Friday.

Steve Carr

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