Canada's Leylah Fernandez rolls to victory in 1st match since U.S. Open

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Canada's Leylah Fernandez, seen above at the U.S. Open,  (Elise Amendola/The Associated Press - image credit)
Canada's Leylah Fernandez, seen above at the U.S. Open, (Elise Amendola/The Associated Press - image credit)

Canadian Leylah Fernandez is picking up where she left off.

The 19-year-old, playing in her first tournament since a stunning run to the U.S. Open final in September, defeated France's Alizé Cornet 6-2, 6-3 in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., on Friday.

Montreal's Fernandez will next play Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the third round.

"I'm very happy with the way I played. I trained very hard after that final, just wanting to be back here in my first Indian Wells," Fernandez said in her post-match on-court interview.

WATCH | Fernandez cruises into 3rd round:

The 23rd-seeded Canadian started blisteringly hot against the 64th-ranked Cornet, winning five consecutive games in the opening set while only conceding six total points.

Though the wily 31-year-old Frenchwoman fought back to win two straight games, Fernandez closed out the set by breaking Cornet. Cornet, who played with wrap on her right leg, met with a trainer in between sets and took a three-minute medical timeout before returning with matching wrap on her left leg.

Cornet kept things closer to begin the second set, but Fernandez eventually pulled away, winning the final three games to seal the victory.

On Thursday, Fernandez teamed with 17-year-old American Coco Gauff for a 6-1, 6-1 doubles win in the Round of 32 over Romania's Irina Camelia-Begu and Czechia's Renata Vorácová.

But the win over Cornet was Fernandez's first singles match since falling to Britain's Emma Raducanu in the U.S. Open final.

Four other Canadians are competing in California.

Ninth-seeded Denis Shapovalov plays 68th-ranked compatriot Vasek Pospisil in the second round on Saturday after the latter came back to defeat American J.J. Wolf in the Round of 128.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, seeded seventh, awaits Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round on Sunday.

WATCH | Previewing the Canadians at Indian Wells:

Meanwhile, reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is also automatically through to the Round of 64, where she'll face American Alison Riske.

Normally held in March, the tournament known colloquially as the "fifth Slam" was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic after being cancelled outright in 2020. Andreescu won in 2019, kicking off her memorable season in which she went on to win titles at the Rogers Cup and U.S. Open, too.

The tournament, a joint ATP and WTA 1000-point event, carries a total prize pool of around $17 million US.

Earlier, Raducanu came down to earth in her first tournament since the U.S. Open, losing in straight sets to Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The Toronto-born Raducanu lost 6-2, 6-4 in the second round, ending her 10-match winning streak that began in New York. She received a wild-card into the combined ATP and WTA tournament in the Southern California desert.

It was Raducanu's fifth Tour-level event since making her WTA Tour debut in June.

"I'm still so new to everything," Raducanu said. "The experiences that I'm going through right now, even though I might not feel 100 per cent amazing right now, I know they're for the greater good."

Former world No. 1 Andy Murray beat Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-2 in his first match as a wild-card. Murray fired five aces and connected on 82 per cent of his first serves against the French lefty-hander. Murray converted three of six break points; Mannarino failed in his lone chance to break.

Iga Swiatek needed just 71 minutes to dispatch Petra Martic 6-1, 6-3.

The last time the tournament was played in 2019, Swiatek lost in qualifying. Now, she's the No. 2 seed and the 2020 French Open champion.

Swiatek won nine of the first 10 games against Martic before the Polish star got broken twice and fell behind 0-3 in the second set. Swiatek rallied to win the next six games and close out the match.

"In 2019, I wasn't playing that confident, but I'm really happy that times have changed now," Swiatek said. "In the second set, I lost focus for one game and she broke me pretty fast, so I knew I just had to keep going and not stop for a second time."

No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina beat Tereza Martineova 6-2, 7-5. No. 7 Petra Kvitova beat Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-2. Ninth-seeded Anatasia Pavlyuchenkova topped American Madison Keys 6-3, 6-1.

Victoria Azarenka advanced via walkover when Magda Linette quit trailing 7-5, 3-0. Shelby Rogers routed Kristina Kucova 6-2, 6-2. No. 19 Jessica Pegula beat Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3.

On the men's side, Americans Jenson Brooksby and Ernesto Escobedo won their first-round matches. Brooksby beat Cem Ilkel 7-6 (5), 6-4, and Escobedo defeated Holger Rune 6-4, 6-1.

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