Canada’s 18-year old emerging star, Leylah Fernandez, won her first WTA title at the Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, Mexico, on Sunday, beating Viktorija Golubic from Switzerland in the final, 6-1 6-4.
I knew that Viktorija came from a final recently. She was playing incredible at the beginning of the year. I just tried to focus on myself, tried to keep playing my game, and do what I did yesterday better today. Leylah Fernandez
Having reached her first WTA final as a 17-year-old in Acapulco a year ago, Fernandez was the youngest player in the draw at this year’s WTA 250 event and said she tried to focus as much as she could on executing her coach’s game plan, while not trying to think about the magnitude of Sunday’s match.
“I didn’t think it was a final or anything,” she said. “I just tried to think of it as another match.’’
It took her 89 minutes to defeat Golubic in a match that featured two players who had not lost a set throughout the tournament.
Fernandez came out of the blocks quickly, racing out to a 5-0 with her net-rushing game, before the Swiss got herself on the board, and the Canadian held one more time to pocket the opener.
“I played an incredible first set,” Fernandez said. “The second set she started picking up her game, making less mistakes and being a little more offensive.
“I just tried to match that as much as I could. I’m happy in those key moments near the end I was able to stick to my game plan and the balls just went in for me and I’m happy for it.”
Fernandez took an early lead in the second before Golubic finally earned her first service break of the encounter to level the set at 2-2.
In a more competitive battle, Golubic began to successfully slam single-handed backhands to counter the forward movement by Fernandez.
Making things more complicated, the Swiss began finding the range on her flowing one-handed backhand and cut back on the unforced errors as the two stayed on serve until 4-all
This proved to be the pivotal game, where Golubic held 3 game points but could not get the hold, as Fernandez took the ball early to garner 2 break points.
The Canadian forced an error on here 2nd chance with a strong return to break for 5-4, and she served out the match in the next game to ease to her first WTA title.
“The last game basically, especially the last two points, I was very nervous there,” Fernandez said in her post-match press conference. “But I just tried to calm myself, just think about the moment, and try to execute the plan as best as I can.
“I’m happy that the balls went in for me.
“It was a family effort for years,” Fernandez added. “I was very happy that the hard work and sacrifices that we’ve done since the beginning is paying off, and just hoping there will be many more.”
Fernandez finished the match with 6 more winners than unforced errors, 23 to 17, while Golubic was in the negatives, hitting 7 winners to 27 unforced errors, most of that deficit coming in the first set.
Even more importantly, Fernandez went 4 of 6 on break points, with Golubic just 1 for 5.
The Canadian also had a big edge on first serve, winning 67.4 per cent of points when she got it in as compared to 51.4 per cent for her opponent.
Fernandez, who is currently ranked No 88, will jump past her career-high ranking of 86 to 72 on Monday.
Golubic will make a big leap, too, when the former No 51 rises from 102 to 81 and becoming the new highest-ranked player on the WTA Tour with a one-handed backhand.
The Swiss has had a very strong start to 2021, reaching finals in Lyon, France and now Monterrey, Mexico—her only two WTA main draws of the year so far.
She is 8-2 this year at tour-level, and 25-5 across all levels, including WTA qualifying and ITF events.
“I knew that Viktorija came from a final recently,” Fernandez said. “She was playing incredible at the beginning of the year.
“I just tried to focus on myself, tried to keep playing my game, and do what I did yesterday better today.”
Fernandez lost her only other tournament final appearance, falling to Great Britain’s Heather Watson in last year’s Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco.
“I just tried to do my best, and tried to use the emotions that I felt last year [in the Acapulco final] as fuel to get the win, and it definitely helped today,” Fernandez said.
About her net-rushing tactics she added: “It’s always been part of my game, trying to go to the net, but I think in the past two matches, it’s been working pretty well for me.
“I was just going out there, having fun on the court, and I wasn’t thinking too much about the consequences. I just went there and tried to execute what I’ve been training.”
Fernandez is now heading to Miami where she is playing in the qualifying.