PARIS – US Open finalist Lelah Fernandez defeated Olympic champion Belinda Bensic 7-5 3-6 7-5 on Friday to reach the fourth round of the French Open for the first time.
The Canadian lefthander only made it to the Major Second Week last time in his run to the final at Flushing Meadows last year where he lost to fellow teenager Emma Radukanur.
The 19-year-old Fernandez, who won the women’s title at the Claycourt Grand Slam three years ago, saved two set points before winning the first set of the marathon in the 62nd minute and had to rally from an early break in the scheduled match. Switzerland
“It was an incredible fight,” the 17th pick, who faces American Amanda Anisimova for the last eight, told reporters.
“I think today I was trusting my game when it was most important, and I’m glad I was able to trust it enough to continue and implement the game plan.”
In the women’s singles gold in Tokyo, the 14th-seeded Benisic hit more winners than her opponent in the opening match at Court Philippe Chatterjee and made fewer unforced errors.
But Fernandez raised his level when it was most important and, after breaking Decider’s serve in the 11th game, held his serve to seal the contest in two hours and 49 minutes.
The Canadian was able to win a WTA 250 title in Monterey, Mexico in early March but his ride has been pushed and marked by many defeats since reaching the final of the US Open.
“I’ve lost a lot of matches to get here,” he said. “So I think using each match as a learning experience to see what’s good about my team and me, where we can improve and what I’m doing well.
“The ability to learn from each of our matches helps keep me in a position where I can say that I just have to believe in my game and fight for every point.”
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