Monterrey Is A Special City For Two-Time Champion Fernandez

Leylah Fernandez (photo: Abierto GNP Seguros)

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

Leylah Fernandez will always share a special relationship with Mexico’s second-largest city, Monterrey. It’s where she won her first WTA tour-level singles title in 2021. It’s also where a year later she successfully defended her Abierto GNP Seguros crown and won a second one Sunday night.

The 19-year-old Canadian from Montreal is very comfortable playing in Mexico’s high altitude setting. Being fluent in Spanish – to go along with English, French – has endeared her to her Mexican fans. The vocal support she and her opponent, 20-year-old Camila Osorio of Colombia, received from the fans who filled Club Sonoma during Sunday’s title match was electrifying. Fernandez returned the favor by giving her entire trophy acceptance speech in Spanish.

As it happened, the lefty Fernandez saved five championship points in the final set and came from behind to beat Osorio 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (3) that lasted a few minutes beyond three hours. The exciting and dramatic finish saw Fernandez fight back from the brink of defeat with her five championship points saved. First, she saved No. 1 serving at 4-5 (30-40). Then, Fernandez fought off four more while serving at 5-6 (30-40, 40-Ad, 40-Ad, 40-Ad). The final one came following a 10-minute delay due to a power outage that shut down a bank of stadium lights.

A remarkable statistic that favored Fernandez and was a difference maker was this: her first-serve percentage while facing break points was 80 percent (12 of 15).

“Today, it was a very, very tough match, not only physically or tennis-wise, but mentally,” Fernandez said during her post-match remarks. “Camila, she’s a tough player to play against. She’s very crafty, she does slices, high balls. It’s very unpredictable.”

Indeed, Osorio, who is coming up on the anniversary of her own first WTA title, won in Bogotá, Colombia last April, used her crafty skills to keep Fernandez off balance and to battle brilliantly. By the end of the match, there were only five points that separated the two competitors as Fernandez outpointed Osorio 121-116. There were also a total of 26 break point opportunities between the two, a credit to the pressure each put on the other.

In the third set tie-break, Fernandez jumped out to a 5-2 lead before Osorio turned the tide and ended the string of four straight points won by the Canadian. Soon, though, Fernandez gained a championship point of her own at 6-3 and didn’t back down. She won when Osorio hit a forehand return wide. It wrapped up a 74-minute final set on a night that included everything one could hope and wish for in a title match.

“I’m very, very happy to have gone through these hard moments, and have fought, found solutions,” Fernandez said. “And Camila, I hope we have many, many more finals like this, because without her, I don’t think this tournament, this final, would be [as] special.”

After facing each other in junior Grand Slam competition three times – with Fernandez winning twice at Roland-Garros and Osorio once at the US Open – this was the first of what could be many future title matches between Fernandez and Osorio. It certainly has the potential to be a great rivalry.

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 title match at Acapulco in 2020. Her fourth final came at last year’s US Open.

“I am very happy that I was able to win the trophy. Monterrey is a special city for me. I hope to return in the coming years,” Fernandez said.

“I feel that Monterrey is a party of my family. I feel the love they have for the sport. I’m happy to hear my name. I hope to see them next year. I’m very happy for the support.”

By the numbers

• Twenty-first-ranked Leylah Fernandez improved to 6-2. She’s won five straight since a disappointing first-round loss in the Australian Open in January. Her win over Osorio represented the first time this year she’s come back to win after losing the first set. Her final-set tie-break record improved to 9-3.

• Camila Osorio’s win-loss record dropped to 6-3 following her runner-up finish in Monterrey. She’s reached back-t0-back quarterfinals, first in Guadalajara and now Monterrey. The Colombian improved her world ranking from 44th to 35th heading into Indian Wells this week.

“Quotable …”

“A positive week, everything was given. We are still starting. Thank you all for your support, blessings. Soon, Indian Wells.”

Camila Osorio of Colombia, following her title loss to Leylah Fernandez.