Leylah Fernandez’s transient historical past on the BNP Paribas Open is a snapshot of her meteoric rise in girls’s tennis.
The 19-year-old from Montreal comes into the 2022 version at No. 21 within the rankings, and contemporary off a profitable defence of her first profession WTA title in Monterrey, Mexico.
And after the first-round bye granted to the 32 seeded gamers (she’s at No. 18), she’ll start her run within the desert this weekend in opposition to both Amanda Anisimova or wild card Emma Navarro, whom she performed within the ultimate when she received the Roland Garros junior ladies’ occasion in 2019.
Simply three years in the past this week, a 16-year-old Fernandez was nowhere close to getting ready to face the most effective within the California desert.
Ranked No. 404 on the planet, she misplaced within the first spherical of qualifying at an entry-level US$25,000 match midway world wide in Nishitama, Japan.
Two years in the past this week, after a run in two Mexican tournaments raised her rating to career-best No. 120, she was awarded a wild card into the Indian Wells singles primary draw.
It by no means occurred.
The match was cancelled owing to COVID-19 the night time earlier than qualifying was to start out – the primary signal of what turned out to be a five-month tennis stoppage in 2020.
A yr in the past this week, with Indian Wells postponed, Fernandez received her first profession ATP Tour title in Monterrey. Nevertheless it got here behind closed doorways.
“They have been overlaying the seats with tarps with the match brand. Once I received, there was solely the volunteers and the ball children within the stands,” Fernandez stated in an interview this week.
Indian Wells was performed in October final yr, barely a month after Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam ultimate on the US Open.
The Canadian arrived in Indian Wells within the high 30, however hadn’t performed since these star-making moments in New York.
She misplaced within the third spherical to shut out her season. Now she’s again once more, having achieved one more first.
Fernandez defended her title in Monterrey final Sunday in opposition to a a lot stronger discipline than she confronted in 2021. She saved 5 match factors in an epic ultimate in opposition to Camila Osorio of Colombia, profitable 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (5).
And this time, it got here earlier than a full home.
“It was magical,” Fernandez stated. “Followers, all people who understands sport comprehend it’s identical to a battlefield. So we’re each going at it and so they’re having fun with it lots.
“Half the stadium was for me, the opposite half for her. It had that soccer sort of setting, which I like. It was nice to really feel that power, see how all people’s having fun with it. I feel that’s why we play sport, simply to attempt to make that occur for everyone.”
Final yr, Fernandez solely needed to defeat one top-100 participant to win, and didn’t drop a set in 5 matches.
This yr, she confronted just one participant outdoors the highest 100. The Canadian had escaped one other third-set tiebreak earlier within the week, in opposition to fellow 19-year-old Zheng Qinwen of China within the second spherical.
Fernandez defended the title regardless of not having performed since a stunning straight-set, first-round exit on the Australian Open by the hands of untamed card Maddison Inglis. She got here in with simply three matches in all of 2022.
“It was nerve-racking, as a result of I do know loads of the gamers had gotten loads of matches below their belt. They performed much more tournaments. So it was extra making an attempt to get used to the tempo as soon as once more,” Fernandez stated.
The important thing was to show the web page on Australia. Rapidly.
“I feel it was simply a type of tournaments that didn’t go – in any respect – effectively. Each athlete goes by that sort of section. And I simply needed to take a step again and see what I did do improper,” Fernandez stated. “Every little thing simply went south. It simply didn’t go in response to plan.”
Fernandez took just a few days, received her thoughts fully off tennis, and received again to coaching as soon as she was prepared.
There was transient dialogue of going to the tournaments in Dubai and Doha in February to get extra matches. However ultimately, she and coach/father Jorge determined to stay with the unique plan.
Fernandez kicked off her Indian Wells in doubles Thursday with veteran Alizé Cornet of France.
The expectations entering into stay the identical.
“Simply taking one match at a time, not be excited about any outcomes,” she stated. “Have enjoyable on the courtroom, and hopefully, there will probably be a pleasant little sample.”