The 18-year-old southpaw from Montreal showed the courage she is known for in a first-round battle at the Tokyo Games, edging Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 in a mixed day for Canadian players at Ariake Tennis Park.
“I’m very happy with myself,” Fernandez said. “I was able to fight against the heat and fight against my opponent. “
The bright sun and the temperature of 34 ° C for the late morning start made the outdoor hard courts hot and fast. Conditions suited the game for the Canadian teenager as she used powerful ground blows to exhaust her opponent in the first set.
Yastremska, the world number 46, also hits a big ball with a constant pace. She bounced back in the second set before Fernandez, 72, put things away with a dominant decision maker, winning the game in two hours five minutes.
“She doesn’t have a lot of pressure and has nothing to lose,” said Canadian women’s coach Heidi el Tabakh. “She is very happy to be here. She’s a fighter and she believes she can make it happen and she can beat these best girls.
“She definitely belongs and she has proven today that she does. “
Fernandez will next face eighth-seeded Barbora Krejcikova, who qualified when Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas retired from leading 5-2.
In women’s doubles, seventh-seeded duo Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa and Sharon Fichman of Toronto lost 7-6 (3), 6-4 to Brazilians Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani.
The Canadians pushed back three set points to force a tiebreaker in Game 1, but some straightforward mistakes proved costly.
“They were able to put together more points than us,” said Dabrowski. “So I feel like that was honestly the main difference. “
It was over for Fichman, who had been treating a right shoulder injury lately. Dabrowski, meanwhile, will focus on a team with Felix Auger-Aliassime in the mixed doubles draw.
Dabrowski, two-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion, had two training sessions this week with the 20-year-old Montrealer, who will be making his career debut in the discipline.
“When you first team up it sometimes works because (the naysayers) don’t know you and you have the surprise factor,” Dabrowski said. “I hope it’s like that here. “
Auger-Aliassime, the world No. 15 in men’s singles, was due to play his first match against Briton Andy Murray on Sunday. The Canadian won his first ATP doubles title last fall when he teamed up with Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz to win the Paris Masters.
Auger-Aliassime has participated in mixed doubles training with Dabrowski in recent days. They trained with a Dutch duo and also hit with el Tabakh and male coach Frank Dancevic.
“It’s going to be interesting, she has a few things to show me,” Auger-Aliassime said. “She has experience in this path, winning Grand Slam tournaments in mixed doubles… I’ll try to do my best.
“I think we can be a good team that can claim a medal. “
Unlike regular tournaments, where championship finals serve as the carrot, there are three Olympic medals at stake in each discipline at the Games. Mixed doubles also offers a tight 16-team draw as 32 teams compete in the men’s and women’s doubles events.
“So you win two games and you’re already up for a medal,” Dancevic said of the mixed format.
The mixed doubles was due to start on Wednesday, one day after the draw was finalized. Auger-Aliassime and Dabrowski would be the only Canadian entry.
“They are both great players and I think they can really (do) some damage here,” el Tabakh said.
There was little relief in the scorching sun on the side courts where the Canadiens played on Saturday. The blinding rays made serving difficult from the north end of the playing area.
Parasols on the courtyard benches provided the only shade. Court team members did their part by holding portable air conditioner hoses close to players’ heads during changes.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 24, 2021.
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