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Fernandez falls to Collins in third round of NBO

Leylah Fernandez Leylah Fernandez - The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Leylah Fernandez feels like she just went through a learning experience.

Playing late at night, with a dip in temperature and little time to warm up due to the over six hours of rain delays on Thursday, the 20-year-old from Laval, Que., fell out of the National Bank Open after losing to American qualifier Danielle Collins 6-2, 6-3 in the third round.

Fernandez, who normally goes to sleep early, realized she’ll need to learn to handle those circumstances better after her opponent thrived under the same conditions.

"Late night matches, I love them, but I gotta change my sleep schedule, so I just gotta learn how to manage this,” she said of the match that got underway at 10 p.m. local time — three hours later than the scheduled start.

“This is a good learning experience, good way to see what I did well and what we can do better, either wake up later or have more naps, but I think it's a great experience for me to learn as an athlete.”

Backed by a half-full but boisterous crowd at IGA Stadium — with persistent “Let’s go Leylah!” chants throughout the evening — Fernandez lost momentum early and double faulted to give up a crucial breakpoint late in the second set as Collins cruised to victory.

Despite Fernandez's early exit, the local favourite had some great moments in the tournament. She won her opener convincingly for a first main-draw victory in Montreal and upsetting No. 11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia in a three-set thriller on Wednesday.

She said the “goosebumps” are what she’ll remember most.

“The goosebumps I felt every time I took the court, and when the fans yelled my name and cheered me on,” she said. “That’s my favourite part of this week.”

Fernandez, who entered the tournament ranked 81st, was the last Canadian remaining in the WTA 1000 tournament, which runs through Sunday.

Collins, now a winner of five straight in Montreal, was nearly untouchable while serving, winning 78.7 per cent of her service points without giving up a single breakpoint opportunity in the match, which lasted 80 minutes.

The 29-year-old has been on a roll, beating Wimbledon semifinalist Elina Svitolina in the first round and No. 8 seed Maria Sakkari in the second — both in straight sets — after making it through qualification.

"I really just need to get more matches and time on the court, and I certainly got that in the qualifying, playing two hard, three-set matches,” said the 48th-ranked Collins. “It's hard to get that match momentum, and that's really been key. It's just getting more matches."

Collins advances to the quarterfinals, where she’ll play world No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland on Friday afternoon.

The match took a long time to start, but Collins didn’t waste a moment getting going.

After holding serve twice to start the match, Collins finally broke through on her fifth break point to go up 3-1.

Down 5-2, Fernandez hit two consecutive double faults — of which she had five on the night — on the way to losing serve again as Collins took the opening set.

Collins also had a couple double faults of her own, leading to loud cheers from the fans as the American also had to beat the crowd on Thursday night.

That did little to affect her play, however, as Collins kept rolling through the second set.

"It's never easy when you play against a home-crowd favourite, I think it definitely helps the person when they're from here and have a lot of fans,” she said. "(But) I thrive in that kind of environment."

Although Fernandez hung on to her serve through three service games, she did little to challenge Collins on the other end.

Up 4-3, Collins broke Fernandez a final time to serve for the match, where she made no mistake, finishing it with two winners.

"Danielle played a great match, didn't do many mistakes,” said Fernandez. “I think she's definitely the one that was very offensive and when I try to be offensive I either, in my opinion, overplayed or I didn't do enough with the ball.”

Earlier Thursday, Swiatek defeated No. 14 seed Karolina Muchova of Czechia 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in a match that had a total of six hours 10 minutes in rain delays.

“I mostly read a book, and there's a quiet room here, so I stayed there,” said Swiatek of how she killed time. “But for sure it wasn't easy to kind of get the energy level up. … I just tried to save energy, and yeah, it worked.”

It was the first meeting between the two opponents since this year’s French Open final, which Swiatek — the No. 1 for 71 weeks running — won in three sets.

No. 10 Daria Kasatkina beat Marie Bouzkova 6-3, 6-4 to advance. She’ll face No. 3 Elena Rybakyna, who beat American Sloane Stephens, in Friday’s quarters.

Before the weather took a turn for the worse, fourth seed Jessica Pegula of the United States advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Italy's Jasmine Paolini.

Pegula will next face sixth seed and doubles partner Coco Gauff of the United States, who beat Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova of Czechia in just 62 minutes.

Third-round matches between No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 15 Liudmila Samsonova, and No. 7 Petra Kvitova and No. 12 Belinda Bencic will take place on Friday due to the delays.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2023.