Steely Resolve Serves Fernandez Well As She Defends Monterrey Title

Leylah Fernandez (photo: Abierto GNP Seguros)

MONTERREY/WASHINGTON, March 7, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The lively and popular Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, Mexico, a WTA 250 outdoor hard-court tournament, has offered everyone a little bit of everything this past week – warm weather, exciting late-night outcomes and mariachi music – even a delay on championship point due to a light outage.

When the lights were back on in full, defending champion Leylah Fernandez metaphorically turned the lights out on the 44th-ranked Camila Osorio. She successfully defended her Monterrey title and won the tournament for the second straight year with an exciting and dramatic 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory that stretched just beyond three hours on Centre Court at Club Sonoma before a lively crowd that unabashedly cheered for both competitors. It was the second career WTA tour-level singles title for the 21st-ranked Fernandez – both achieved in Mexico’s second-largest city.

With the championship title match late in the third set tied at a set each and fifth-seeded Osorio of Colombia ahead 6-5 – and with a fifth championship point in her pocket against the defending champion and No. 2 seed Fernandez of Canada – a bank of lights started flickering and went out. It’s the kind of drama that couldn’t have been scripted.

After a delay of about 10 minutes, play resumed and Fernandez promptly saved her fifth championship point when Osorio netted a return. Then, Fernandez gained an ad-point with a solid forehand winner. She held serve with another forehand winner – showing tremendous resolve – to force a third-set tiebreak. The 14-point game, in which Fernandez saved four of her five championship points – was filled with plenty of mystery, intrigue and suspense.

Then, in the final-set tie-break, Fernandez jumped ahead to a 4-2 lead, taking advantage of a couple of mini breaks. She extended her lead to 5-2 before Osorio turned the tide and ended the string of four points in a row won by Fernandez. Soon, though, Fernandez gained a championship point of her own at 6-3 and didn’t throw away her shot. She won when Osorio hit a forehand return wide. It wrapped up a 74-minute final set on a night that had everything. Fernandez outpointed Osorio 121-116. It was that close.

Upon securing championship point, Fernandez repeatedly pumped her fists in celebration and ran over to hug her father and coach, Jorge Fernandez. Then, she made ample time to celebrate with some of the courtside fans by posing for selfies and signing autographs – even giving away a racquet to a lucky young fan.

The victory by Fernandez improved her win-loss record in the Monterrey event to 12-1. She’s won her last 10 consecutive matches over the past two years at Club Sonoma. En route to her 2022 title, she defeated Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, Zheng Qinwen of China, Wang Qiang of China, Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil and Osorio.

As Fernandez accepted her champion’s trophy, the crowd began to chant, “Let’s go, Leylah!” During her trophy speech, spoken entirely in Spanish, Fernandez thanked the crowd for its support and vowed to return to Monterrey next year to defend her title.

“Estero tener más trefoil come este en el future,” Fernandez said. Translated: “I hope to have more trophies like this in the future.”

Harrison and Santamaria win their first doubles title

Catherine Harrison and Sabrina Santamaria, both of the United States, won the Abierto GNP Seguros doubles final with a 1-6, 7-5, 10-6 victory over Han Xinyun of China and Yana Sizikova of Russia.

The title was the first WTA doubles title for both Harrison, 27, and Santamaria, 29. Harrison was appearing in her first tour-level doubles final while Santamaria broke an 0-for-4 streak in tour-level doubles finals.

Noteworthy …

• The Leylah Fernandez-Camila Osorio tussle was the first on the WTA Tour between the 19-year-old Fernandez and 20-year-old Osorio. However, they faced each other three times as juniors. Fernandez won twice over Osorio at Roland Garros in 2018 and 2019 and Osorio beat Fernandez at the 2018 US Open.

• Leylah Fernandez improved to 2-2 in WTA tour-level finals. Sunday was her third final played in Mexico. In addition to appearing in the 2021 and 2022 Monterrey finals, she also reached the final at Acapulco in 2020. Her fourth final came at last year’s US Open.

• Sunday’s final was Camila Osorio’s third in the past year. She won her first WTA tour-level title at the Copa Colsanitas on clay in Bogotá, Colombia last April and was a runner-up at Tenerife on a hard court in Gran Canaria, Spain last October. The loss to Fernandez dropped Osorio’s tour-level finals record to 1-2. With her run to her third final this week in Monterrey, she’s expected to rise into the Top 40 when the new WTA rankings are made official on Monday.