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Canadian Leylah Fernandez defeats Hercog to advance at Serbia Open

Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez is heading to the second round of the Serbia Open.

Fernandez, from Laval, Que., defeated Polona Hercog of Slovenia 7-5, 6-1 in the opening round of the WTA Tour clay-court event on Monday.

The result snapped a run of two tournaments in a row in which Fernandez dropped her opening match.

Fernandez, ranked 69th in the world, saved six of seven break points she faced. The Canadian converted on seven of her 14 break-point opportunities against Hercog, the world No. 73.

The 18-year-old Fernandez is now 2-0 versus Hercog, with the Canadian also winning on clay last year in the second round of the French Open.

Fernandez will face the winner of a match between Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria and Lola Radivojevic of Serbia in the second round.

Before she played her first match at the Belgrade tennis tournament on Monday, Leylah Fernandez of Quebec received the Billie Jean King Cup ‘Heart’ award.

Tennis Canada announced the news in a press release. The organization said the honour was given to her following her performance in Canada’s 4-0 win over Serbia in April.

Fernandez’s two singles victories helped secure Canada’s spot in next year’s qualifiers. Fernandez defeated Olga Danilovic, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 and Nina Stojanovic, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The winner of the award — which honors players who have represented their country with distinction, demonstrated exceptional courage on the court and shown outstanding commitment to their team at the Billie Jean King Cup — was decided by a public vote.

The award comes with a $3,000 cheque that Fernandez can donate to the charity of her selection. The Canadian decided to donate to Table de sécurité alimentaire de Villeray in Montreal.

‘To represent my country and be part of such a great team means a lot to me. (…) After such a difficult year for all of us, it’s amazing to have the opportunity to celebrate goodness and pass it on,’ she said.

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