TORONTO -- Leylah Fernandez enjoyed a victorious homecoming at the National Bank Open, defeating Australian qualifier Storm Sanders, 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3 in the first round.
Playing her first match since making the Roland Garros quarterfinals in May, the 19-year-old Canadian posted her first main-draw win at her home tournament in her third appearance. She will face Brazil's Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round.
"It was definitely one tough match," Fernandez said. "It had everything. It had great moments, bad moments, it had spectacular moments from both players.
"I was just super happy that I was able to play in front of my home crowd. And also that at the end of the match my body feels amazing. So that's a huge positive. That's the biggest win that I can ask for."
For Fernandez to come through a physical 2-hour and 41-minute grind and feel confident in her fitness is a big boon. She had been sidelined for more than two months with a stress fracture in her foot and only received clearance to play a few days before the tournament. Monday night was Fernandez's much-anticipated homecoming after a year that included her run to the US Open final, winning her second Hologic WTA Tour title in Monterrey and, most recently, making her second major quarterfinal at Roland Garros.
"Here in Toronto it's just like playing in front of my family, playing in front of the Canadian crowd, playing in front of all the people who have helped me, who have cheered me on throughout the years," Fernandez said. "So it's like a great way for me to say thank you to them by showing that all the years that not only I suffer, but they suffer too has paid off and hopefully that this can keep going."
Fernandez is doing double duty this week in Toronto. In addition to making her singles return she is set to play doubles with her younger sister Bianca. It's a moment for their family but also an opportunity for Fernandez to accelerate her improvement to peak in New York.
"It also gets me into that offensive mindset of, if I do like give an easy ball, there's not only just one player, there's two players on the other side who are going to come at us," she said. "So it's just going to help us get ready for those tougher matches.
"Of course it's going to be like extra hours on the legs, but that's what we want. That's what we want to see if my body can take it. And up to now it's going great so I'm just happy that I have a great team behind me and who is going to see and can help me make decisions."