Canada's Leylah Fernandez digs deep to defeat Storm Sanders in opening match at National Bank Open
Serena Williams earns 1st win since return from injury; Medvedev set to defend title
Canada's Leylah Fernandez made her return to the court Monday night with a 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3 win against Australian Storm Sanders in the opening round of the women's National Bank Open tournament in Toronto.
For Fernandez, of Laval, Que., it's her first time in competition since suffering a stress fracture in her foot during a quarter-final loss to Martina Trevisan on May 31.
After the start time had been delayed due to the earlier suspension of Sloane Stephens' match against Sofia Kenin, and their final set needing to be finished, Fernandez and Sanders wasted little time getting to work.
The first game alone featured four deuces, which Fernandez was able to close out with a forehand. It was one of four games in the first set to consist of deuces, with the other three going to one, six and one.
The 13th-ranked Fernandez will next play Brazil's Beatriz Maia on Wednesday.
WATCH | Fernandez tops Sanders in Toronto:
Up 3-2, Fernandez got the better of Sanders on a couple of exchanges, including one with a light forehand that she whizzed by the Australian. At 40-all, it was Sanders who used an ace and a strong forehand to quickly tie things up.
After taking the next game, Fernandez found herself in another 40-all situation, this time with six deuces as both players lost their advantages on unforced errors or the other getting by on clutch forehand shots.
Up 5-4 in the match but down 15-40 in the 10th game, Fernandez fired back with impressive forehands to tie it up with another deuce, the last one going down the left side line.
With Sanders serving and it being set point, Fernandez benefited from a double fault to win it 6-4.
The Leylah Fernandez Show has arrived in Toronto 🔥🔥🔥<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBO22?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBO22</a><br>📸 <a href="https://twitter.com/PeterMPower?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@PeterMPower</a> <a href="https://t.co/00mOqgCeJH">pic.twitter.com/00mOqgCeJH</a>—@NBOtoronto
In the second set, the tide had turned in the favour of the 20th-ranked Sanders.
Sanders closed the first game on a forehand after taking the advantage after a deuce, then went up 40-15 before closing the next game on another forehand going the opposite way from Fernandez to go up 2-0.
After multiple double faults, Fernandez found herself back in it with a couple forehands going by Sanders. After a swift forehand landed her the advantage, an error from Sanders cut the deficit to 2-1.
Fernandez turned up the intensity from there.
Fernandez strung together her second straight game, as Sanders struggled with errors, missing on three consecutive shots after a forehand landed Fernandez a 15-0 lead.
After trading the next two games, Fernandez struggled with unforced errors, going wide and hitting the net, as Sanders took the final game 7-2 to win the set 7-6 (2).
In the final set, both players found themselves in another back and forth — until Fernandez once again figured a way to win consecutive games. A cross-court forehand later followed by an unforced error from Sanders, put Fernandez up 3-2 after being down 2-1.
After trading games, and Fernandez up 4-3, the two players went to six deuces before a Fernandez forehand and another error from Sanders put the Canadian up 5-3.
With a chance to advance on the line, Fernandez delivered with the home crowd behind her.
In a deuce like many other times on the night, Fernandez took the advantage on a Sanders' shot that hit the net. Sanders missed again, going beyond the baseline as a relieved Fernandez closed the set and match 6-3.
Williams claims 1st win of season
Serena Williams earned her first victory of the season earlier on Monday in Toronto, defeating Nuria Parrizas-Diaz 6-3, 6-4.
It's just the second tournament of the season for Williams, who made her return to competition at Wimbledon just over a month ago.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion fell in the first round to Harmony Tan in three sets at the All England Club.
Before then, she last competed at the 2021 Wimbledon tournament, where she retired in the middle of her first match due to a torn hamstring suffered after slipping on the grass surface.
Williams will next play the winner between Belinda Bencic and Tereza Martincova.
WATCH | Williams brings fans to their feet with opening-round win in Toronto:
The 40-year-old Williams started out strong, taking the first two games with relative ease.
Parrizas-Diaz tied it 2-2, but despite Williams' struggles at certain points, the 31-year-old Spaniard couldn't find enough of a consistent flow to get ahead.
Tied 3-3, it was Williams who found her rhythm, mixing solid touch with her signature power and putting shot after shot out of Parrizas-Diaz's reach.
Up 5-3, Williams had trouble landing set point, with the 57th-ranked Parrizas-Diaz fighting to send the game back to deuce.
But Parrizas-Diaz had trouble with Williams' serve, as the American scored on three of her four aces within that span. The last of them caused Parrizas-Diaz to hit a high arching shot that allowed Williams to fire one the opposite way, well out of her reach, to win the set 6-3.
Serena Williams, not looking even remotely match fit, survives against a nobody qualifier in the first round in Toronto. Can’t imagine she can beat an opponent of quality, but her mere presence illustrates the massive hole she will leave in the women’s game when she retires.—@DamoSpin
In the second set, Parrizas-Diaz opened things up, taking the first game and then going up 2-1.
Williams then turned up the intensity level.
After taking away the Spaniard's advantage, Williams pulled out all the stops showing flashes of her old self, taking the advantage with a mix of touch shots and powerful forehands in a lengthy exchange, later tying it at 2-2.
Williams' effort had the fans on their feet roaring, and some even bowing.
After the players traded game wins for a time, Williams broke that run when she turned a 4-3 deficit to a 5-4 lead, continuously finding ways to rally when behind.
Williams cruised to a win the final game to take deciding set 6-4.
Top-ranked Medvedev ready for title defence
Wet weather kept many players in a frustrating holding pattern Monday afternoon at the men's National Bank Open in Montreal. Defending champion Daniil Medvedev had no such issue.
It's one of the perks of being the world's top-ranked men's singles player. Medvedev received a first-round bye as a top seed and likely won't play his opening match at IGA Stadium until Wednesday.
Unlike many of his ATP Tour peers who were stuck waiting to see when the rain would let up, the confident Russian star could relax knowing he only had to tinker with his training schedule.
Medvedev held court with reporters during a 15-minute availability before continuing preparations for his title defence at the Masters 1000 tournament.
He enters the competition on a roll after winning in Mexico over the weekend. Medvedev didn't lose a set at the tournament en route to claiming his 14th career ATP-level crown.
Medvedev, who competes under a neutral flag, could face Australia's Nick Kyrgios in the second round. Kyrgios, who jumped 26 spots to No. 37 in this week's rankings, was scheduled to open against Argentina's Sebastian Baez.
World No. 9 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal is one of many young stars who are seeded for the US$6.53-million tournament. Others include Spain's Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, Norway's Casper Ruud and Italy's Jannik Sinner.
Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori defeated Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in a match that began four hours after its originally scheduled start time.
In other early matches, American Jenson Brooksby beat Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-3 and Russia's Karen Khachanov topped Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3. Alex Molcan of Slovakia defeated American Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (1), 6-4.
Shapovalov's match against De Minaur postponed
Rain returned later in the day, forcing the suspension of all evening matches.
Australia's Alex de Minaur had a 7-5, 6-6 lead on Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., when the clouds opened. They had split the first six points of the second-set tiebreaker.
Organizers later postponed the suspended matches until Tuesday. Play was scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. ET, an hour earlier than normal.
Wild-card entries Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., are also in the 56-player field.
Auger-Aliassime has a first-round bye as the No. 6 seed and likely won't play his opening match until Wednesday. Pospisil was slated to play his opening doubles match with Sinner on Monday but it was rescheduled.
The singles field includes 41 of the top 44 players in the men's rankings. The event returns to full capacity this year for the first time since 2019.
Robert Bedard was the last Canadian to win this tournament, taking the 1958 title in Vancouver.