Leylah Fernandez

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez reacts after winning against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic during their women’s singles match on day six of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on May 27, 2022. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

PARIS – US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez edged Olympic champion Belinda Bencic 7-5 3-6 7-5 on Friday after a see-saw battle to reach the French Open fourth round for the first time.

The only other time the Canadian lefthander made the second week of a major was on her run to the final at Flushing Meadows last year where she lost to fellow teenager Emma Raducanu.

The 19-year-old Fernandez, who won the girls’ title three years ago at the claycourt Grand Slam, saved two set points before winning the marathon first set in 62 minutes and had to rally from an early break down in the decider against the Swiss.

“It was an incredible fight,” the 17th seed, who faces American Amanda Anisimova for a last-eight spot, told reporters.

“I think today I was just trusting my game when it mattered the most, and I’m just glad that I was able to trust it enough for me to keep going and keep executing the game plan.”

The 14th-seeded Bencic, who won the women’s singles gold in Tokyo, hit more winners and committed fewer unforced errors than her opponent in the opening match on Court Philippe Chatrier.

But Fernandez raised her level when it mattered most and, after breaking serve in the 11th game of the decider, held her serve to love to seal the contest in two hours 49 minutes.

The Canadian managed to win a WTA 250 title in Monterrey, Mexico, at the beginning of March but her ride since making the U.S. Open final has been rocked and marked by numerous defeats.

“I have lost a lot of matches to get here,” she said. “So I think every match, what’s good about my team and I, we were able to use it as a learning experience to see where I can improve and what I’m doing good too.

“It’s just the ability to keep learning from every match that we have that helps put me in a position where I can say that I’ll just need to trust my game and just fight for every point.”

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