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.
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”.