Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez stopped Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the semi-finals of the Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey on Saturday, where she will play Viktorija Golubic from Switzerland, who defeated American Ann Li in her last 4 contest.
Today, the game plan was to be a little more offensive, coming into the net. I think I executed it pretty well, and I’m happy that the win was on my side. Leylah Fernandez
18-year old Fernandez, who has yet to drop a set in Mexico, ended the 7-match winning streak of last week’s Guadalajara champion Sorribes Tormo, with a 7-5,7-5 victory over the No 7 seed.
Earlier, Golubic defeated No 8 seed Li, 6-2 6-4, to become the first qualifier to reach the Monterrey Open final in the tournament’s history.
The Canadian teenager continued her run of success in Monterrey, where she reached the quarter-finals last season in her tournament debut, and she is now 6-1 at the event after her hard-fought 2-hour 6 minute win over Sorribes Tormo.
“I was fighting through tough points, almost every point was tough, she played incredible,” Fernandez said, after her victory. “She’s a tough player to play against.
“She won last week in Guadalajara, so obviously she came in with a lot of confidence and I just tried to do my best in the moment, and I’m happy with the win today.”
The teenager is now into her 2nd career WTA singles final, her first also coming in Mexico, where she contested the championship match in Acapulco last year before falling to Heather Watson.
Fernandez, the youngest player in this week’s main draw, converted 6 of her 9 break points against Sorribes Tormo as she blasted 35 winners to eke out both tight sets over the surging Spaniard.
“Today, the game plan was to be a little more offensive, coming into the net,” Fernandez said. “I think I executed it pretty well, and I’m happy that the win was on my side.”
Fernandez’s frequent charges to the net contrasted with Sorribes Tormo’s hefty shots and tremendous defence to line up an entertaining contest.
They traded points throughout the first set until Fernandez held a 6-5 advantage, with 4 straight breaks of service occurring from 2-2 to 4-4 in the opener as the returners took aim to dominate.
Despite the Spaniard holding serve, Fernandez used aggressive play, putting away a volley to reach set point, then queuing up another volley winner with powerful groundstrokes to earn the break and won the set in 61 minutes.
The 18-year-old opened the second by winning the first game and had a 2-1 advantage, but Sorribes Tormo won the next 2 games to take a 3-2 lead, the set following a similar pattern to the first.
Fernandez steeled herself to save 3 straight break points and hold for 5-4 and, once more, broke the Spaniard at 6-5 with a winning volley to triumph.
The Canadian, ranked 88th in the world, will play for her first ever singles title Sunday against Golubic, who also came through in straight sets against Li in the other semi.
For Golubic, victory over Li further extends her fine run of form this season as the Swiss has now reached the final of her last two WTA events, each time as a qualifier.
Two weeks ago, she was the runner-up to Clara Tauson in Lyon.
“This is really awesome,” Golubic said, regarding her trophy match double. “First of all, to experience that, and to still be also fit mentally and physically is also not an easy thing.
“I was keeping my routines and doing that very well too, so I also learned a lot about my game, and I could just feel I’m playing pretty solid now, and also moving well, and attacking in the right moments.”
28-year old Golubic has won 8 of her last 9 WTA main-draw matches and, adding her qualifying victories in Lyon and Monterrey to that total, she is now 12-1 over the last 3 weeks.
Additionally, prior to her recent WTA exploits, Golubic had gone 12-2 on the ITF circuit this season, including a title in Grenoble, France, and a runner-up finish in Fujairah, UAE where she again fell to Tauson.
Neither Golubic nor Li had dropped a set coming into the semi-finals, but it was the qualifier who came through in 78 minutes, winning 5 of her 7 break points, and using many of her signature one-handed-backhands to fire 21 winners in the match.
“I was trying to be focused on my serve, because I knew she could serve well from time to time and then dominate,” Golubic said.
“I was trying to win my serve, and then when I had the chance, really get on her serve too.”
Li’s powerful hitting only led to 9 winners on the day, as this year’s Grampians Trophy finalist saw her excellent 2021 win-loss record dip to 9-2 with the loss.
After an early exchange of breaks through 2-2, Golubic used tremendous depth of shot to steal Li’s next 2 service games as well, building a 5-2 advantage, and she converted her first set point in the very next game with an error-forcing crosscourt forehand.
In the second, Li dropped serve in the opening game, but again pulled back to level at 2-2 with sturdy returning, only for miscues to then gift Golubic a crucial break at 4-3, and the qualifier eased to victory from there.
Golubic has now reached two WTA singles finals this season, which is the first time she has accomplished that feat since 2016, when she won the title in Gstaad and finished as runner-up in Linz.
Earlier in the day, America’s Caroline Dolehide & Asia Muhammad claimed the doubles title after defeating Britain’s Heather Watson & Zheng Saisai of China, 6-2 6-3.
“What helps us is that both of us have big games — sometimes too big and we need to pull back a little,” Muhammad laughed, after their win. “But I think it just helps, we have good serves, returns.
“I think that helps us a lot to navigate through these matches.”
Dolehide added: ”With a big server like me and Asia, to just have solid returns and make those first balls really count.
“Hit those big, big targets and be really aggressive and stick to our game style helps a lot.”
The No 2 seeds, Dolehide & Muhammad, were only broken once in the match as they claimed nearly three-quarters of their first-service points en route to the 66-minute victory over their unseeded opponents.
This is Muhammad’s 6th WTA doubles title, but her first of the season, and her first alongside Dolehide, whose in Monterrey marks her first WTA title after her first-ever final.