GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- No.14 Belinda Bencic avenged her Roland Garros loss to Leylah Fernandez, defeating the Canadian on Monday 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-3 in the first round of the Guadalajara Open Akron. With the win, Bencic keeps her hopes of qualifying for her second WTA Finals alive.
Bencic sits at No.12 on the Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard with five qualifying spots up for grabs this week in the final tournament of the regular season. The Swiss must make the semifinals to have a chance of punching her ticket to Fort Worth.
Coming into Monday night's opener, Bencic was bidding to earn her first win over Fernandez, having fallen to her in three sets at Roland Garros this spring and at the Billie Jean King Cup in 2020.
"I think every match with Leylah will be, and is, very close," Bencic said on court. "She's playing very good and it's tough to find the rhythm against her. I'm happy I learned something from the last time I lost."
In a see-saw affair that went down to the wire, both players came back from the brink in their respective sets to take the match to a decider. Bencic saved three set points in the first set, while Fernandez gamely saved five match points in the protracted tiebreak to win it 12-10.
As temperatures dipped and the wind began to swirl, momentum remained elusive in the deciding set. Bencic leaped to a 2-0 lead only to be pegged back to 2-2. With both players struggling with their baseline consistency, Bencic backed away from her flat-hitting game plan and began to put more margin behind the ball. The adjustment led to more errors from the Fernandez racquet. Bencic broke Fernandez for a fifth and final time for a 4-2 lead and eventually closed out the win after 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Bencic finished the match with 30 winners to 43 unforced errors, including 13 double faults. Fernandez hit 25 winners to 42 unforced errors.
"I felt like I had a good game plan but it was tough to execute it with the conditions," Bencic said. "I'm happy for the first match that I'm through. It doesn't have to be pretty."
Bencic next faces Sloane Stephens in the second round. A champion at the WTA 250 event held in February, Sloane Stephens extended her winning streak in Guadalajara to six matches after defeating Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-0, 6-2. It will be their first meeting since 2015.
Closing out the night session, Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Mexican wild card Fernanda Contreras Gomez, 6-2, 6-1. She awaits the winner between No.13 seed Madison Keys and Magda Linette.