MONTERREY, Mexico - Leylah Annie Fernandez and springtime in Mexico look to be a perfect match.
The 17-year-old Canadian, fresh off of her first WTA final last week in Acapulco, continued her torrid stretch in the country on Wednesday night with a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 victory over No.5 seed Sloane Stephens at the Abierto GNP Seguros to advance to the last eight.
Despite losing the opener after having a set point and an early lead in the ensuing tiebreak, the 17-year-old bounced back in a big way in the second and third sets to scored her second win over a player ranked in the Top 50 in the last month, and reach another quarterfinal in her sixth WTA main draw appearance.
"It was a great match. I was a little nervous in the beginning. She's a great player and she's won a Grand Slam. I knew it wasn't going to be easy," Fernandez said after the match.
"I tried to use everything that I've trained, as in forgetting about the past and focusing on the present, and that's helped me a lot. I've done a lot of mental training since I was very young and it's paying off now."
After the two players traded breaks in the first games of the match, Fernandez kept the lead against Stephens by showing off some of the serving that would become the featured asset in her victory.
The teenager saved one break point at 3-3, but was largely otherwise unthreatened on serve after the first game, and earned her own opportunity to win the set as Stephens served in the 12th game.
The former US Open champion found some of her best tennis, however, to cool off Fernandez in the set's late stages, and won seven of nine points in the tiebreak after falling behind 2-0.
"In the first set, I had my chances, but I missed the opportunity," Fernandez said. "In the second and third sets, I just tried to calm my nerves down, and play through the match and try to figure things out to win."
However, the left-hander never faced a break point in sets two and three, and lost just seven points in nine service games overall, while breaking the former World No.3 a combined three times to pull off the comeback in two hours and five minutes.
Serving from behind for the first half of the second set, Fernandez won 12 straight points at one stage to turn a 2-3 deficit into a 5-3 lead, and hardly looked back from then on.
She earned the break of serve that decided the final set in the fourth game and kept the American at arms' length from there, winning 12 of the final 13 points in her last three service games.
After beating then-World No.5 Belinda Bencic on the second day of Canada's Fed Cup Qualifier against Switzerland in the first week of February, the reigning French Open girls' champion ran her record to 8-1 over the past two weeks with the win.
She scored six wins in Acapulco last week - all in straight sets - before finishing runner-up to Great Britain's Heather Watson in a marathon final that lasted nearly three hours, and triumphed over another Swiss player, Stefanie Voegele, in the first round in Monterrey.
Up next, Fernandez could have an opportunity for another match against a Top 10 player, as she'll face either top seed and World No.7 Elina Svitolina or Belarusian veteran Olga Govortsova.
"It's going to be another tough match," the teenager said. "Svitolina, she's a great player. She's won many tournaments and I've seen her play on TV.
"I'll just go through my training tomorrow, maybe fix a few things, have a game plan and hope for the best, and prepare for the worst."