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PARIS — Leylah Fernandez’s dream run at Roland Garros ended in the quarterfinals Tuesday — a combination of a tough matchup against fellow left-hander Martina Trevisan of Italy and a right foot injury that required treatment in the first set of a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3 defeat.
Trevisan served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, only to be broken and have Fernandez fight back to take the set in a tiebreak.
The third set looked like one-way traffic at 0-4. But Fernandez continued to fight. It took nearly an hour for the 28-year-old Italian, a surprise quarter-finalist in Paris in 2020, to earn her second match point.
This time, she finished the job, and is off to her first Roland Garros semifinal to face fellow first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Coco Gauff of the U.S.
The trademark energy, exuberance and demonstrativeness was absent in Fernandez’s game Tuesday, no doubt in part due to concerns about the foot.
There had been no sign of a problem during her practice session on Monday, at least not during the first hour. But it appears to have been a pre-existing issue.
After several hours during which Fernandez was said to be having treatment, and a couple of postponements, the Canadian did not meet with the media to shed light on the injury “on advice of the tournament medical team.”
She was spotted in the women’s locker room with crutches.
In fact, not much is known at all — especially not whether the injury is serious enough to affect her preparation and competitive plans during the short grass-court season leading up to Wimbledon next month.
A few brief questions put to Fernandez by the WTA communications officials yielded little information, although she was not asked what the problem was.
“Today was definitely hard luck. I did feel it before the match, but I didn't think much of it. You know, it just happened and we are just going to have to learn from this,” Fernandez said during a 58-second audio clip.
On the last point of the 2-2 game in the first set, Fernandez came up limping.
Upon arrival at her chair, the physical trainer and doctor came out to treat what appeared to be a problem on the top of her right foot, near the toes.
She also took a couple of tablets from the tournament doctor.
The foot was wrapped. And some 20 minutes later, when the pills finally kicked in, she did mount more resistance.
But in the end, it was the combination of adrenalin and determination that pushed the match to a third set.
Fernandez has been remarkably healthy so far in her young career despite being undersized by modern standards.
She has rarely missed a tournament because of injury.
But in Australia in January, she came in with an abductor pull suffered in Adelaide, in a tune-up tournament two weeks before the main event.
She withdrew from a second tournament the following week. She then fell in the first round of the Australian Open to obscure qualifier Maddison Inglis, in straight sets.
There was plenty of blowback after that loss. Much like the Emma Raducanu, the British teenager who defeated Fernandez in the U.S. Open final last September, the high standards set by the two teenagers make every defeat fodder for criticism.
Father Jorge Fernandez said his daughter probably should not have played her second match in Adelaide, which she lost to Iga Swiatek of Poland.
She was off for 7-10 days, and only had a few days to train for the Australian Open.
“What makes me proud of her that she didn't use that as an excuse. She went through the pain and she probably made it worse than what it could have been,” Jorge Fernandez said on Monday. “I think she got punished for that. But that gave her more fuel for her fire. She said, ‘The next Slam, I'm going to be ready.’ She wanted to prove it to herself and prove a lot of people wrong, because they had the wrong assessment of the situation.”
So this is the second consecutive major in which injury was a contributing factor to a disappointing performance.
But this was her first Roland Garros quarterfinal, with a big crowd in Court Philippe-Chatrier and a semifinal berth at stake.
“It is a little hard at the moment to find some positives, because of course I wanted to get to the semifinals. But I think I will just have to take a few days and then look back and see what I have done well,” Fernandez told the tournament official. “We are just going to go from there. Right now I will see what I can do to recuperate as quickly as possible.”
Fernandez was not scheduled to play in the opening week of the grass-court season next week. Her next scheduled tournament is the WTA 500 in Berlin, Germany that begins on June 13.
The 19-year-old may end up at a career-high ranking after her quarterfinal effort. But nothing is sure.
Because of all the upsets in this year’s tournament there are several players who began the fortnight ranked lower than Fernandez who might pass her — including Trevisan, Gauff and Daria Kasatkina of Russia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2022.
Stephanie Myles, The Canadian Press