Canadian tennis star Leylah Fernandez said she expected a very tough meeting versus Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova but still entered the match wanting to play freely and without putting too much pressure on herself. On Monda,y world No.

Leylah Annie Fernandez

18 Fernandez made a positive start to her Rome campaign, beating Pavlyuchenkova 1-6 6-2 6-2. After easily losing the first set, Fernandez claimed a total of five breaks in the rest of the match to create a comeback and advance to the Rome second round.

“She’s an incredible player and she’s very comfortable on clay. I knew it was going to be tough,” Fernandez said. “The first set, I made a few mistakes and she just took advantage of it. In the second set, I just wanted to play a little more freely, just letting go of my arms.

“Even though I lost the first game, I think it helped me to get into the match. Afterwards, my balls were just going in. I’m just glad that I was able to keep attacking, keep being on the offensive, even though I was making mistakes, and I still kept trusting myself”.

Fernandez plays Daria Kasatkina next

Fernandez beat a Russian in her Rome opener and now she will have to beat another Russian in order to progress into the Rome last-16. Meanwhile, rising American star Cori Gauff was also in action on Monday and joined Fernandez on the winners’ circle.

Gauff, who is enjoying a career-high ranking of No. 15 in the world, beat former world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-1 6-4. “We had a lot of close games even though the first set went, 6-1, a lot of games went to deuce or 30-30,” Gauff said.

“Footwork and movement against her was crucial. She can change direction on some balls that a lot of players can’t, so you don’t really expect it. I felt like I was off-footed a lot, but I think what came through today is really how I handled myself”.

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