PARIS | Beneath her shy airs, Leylah Fernandez likes lively crowds in front of which she can put on a show. And that’s what the young Quebecer will have the opportunity to do today, when she returns to Roland-Garros.
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Fate willed that for her first match, Leylah rubbed shoulders with a local favorite, Kristina Mladenovic, a former world top 10 who fell to 110and rank after more difficult years on the circuit.
The 17and seeded player who faces a French player: the organizers have obviously reserved one of the main courts for them, the Suzanne-Lenglen, which the two girls will tread around 10 a.m., Quebec time.
In front of these spectators who risk being hostile to her place, Leylah sees a great opportunity to have fun. Because whether the crowd is for or against her, the Lavalloise feasts in front of a noisy public.
“It will be a very nice atmosphere! launched the 19-year-old with a smile yesterday. I like that there are a lot of people here. Having a big crowd for a women’s tennis match is likely to motivate us to play even better. »
An attacking game
Having fun is one thing, but fun alone does not make long careers.
Fernandez therefore says she is ready to face the powerful 29-year-old slugger, against whom she “will have to be offensive, so that she does not take control of the match”.
The Quebecer began her preparation on clay a long time ago, at the Charleston tournament in early April.
She interrupted it briefly to go play the Billie Jean King Cup in Vancouver, on the hard, where she won her two matches for Canada.
Highs and lows
On the ochre, Leylah experienced mixed results. She was eliminated from entry to Charleston, then she spent a round in Madrid and Rome, two prestigious events in the WTA 1000 category.
But despite this record of two wins against three losses on clay, the Quebecer says she is “very satisfied with her game” at the moment.
“I feel good,” Fernandez said. Of course, I can improve even more, but for the moment I feel that I am in a good place. I hope I can improve with each round. »
“I had a really good week of training,” she continued. I’m very happy to be here, to play in front of the French crowd. »
Leylah has good reason to love Paris. At only 19 years old, she will already be making her third appearance in the big picture at Porte d’Auteuil.
It was at this tournament that she made her first Grand Slam breakthrough, in 2020. During this exceptionally contested edition in the fall due to the pandemic, the very young Leylah, then 100th in the world, had reached the third lap before dropping the flag to the Czech Petra Kvitova, 11and favourite.
And the previous year, she had won the title there among the juniors, without losing a round.
“I am delighted to be back in Paris, she rejoiced. We don’t feel any negative vibes here, and for me, that’s important. »
Félix Auger-Aliassime (9) will make his comeback around 6:30 a.m. Quebec time against Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas, 122and world, on the Philippe-Chatrier, the center court at Roland-Garros.
Leylah still captivating
PARIS | Several of the most popular players in Paris have been sitting in the main Roland-Garros press conference room over the past few days, for the traditional pre-tournament interviews. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek, in particular… and also Leylah Fernandez, yesterday.
There were certainly not 17 journalists like at this press briefing at Wimbledon, in 2018, where Eugenie Bouchard had attracted three times more media representatives than her opponent, a certain Ashleigh Barty, future world number 1, who had just beat her in two sets.
The enthusiasm persists
But all the same, this presence in the large room located under the Philippe-Chatrier court shows that the enthusiasm surrounding the 19-year-old Quebecer persists, nine months after this unexpected final at the United States Open.
Throughout the New York fortnight, Leylah had gained a ton of supporters thanks to her spectacular comebacks, but also, because of her spontaneous and candid answers in interviews on the ground.
Much like a young player playing her first games on a big field, Leylah said she sees media interest as an opportunity “to grow.”
“For me, it’s a time that allows me to learn how to behave and speak [devant les journalistes] “, underlined the Lavalloise of origin, in French.
Rare are the 17are who are entitled to this privilege, unless they are a local favourite. His compatriot Bianca Andreescu, who fell to 72and rank, but who is back in force after a long break (see other text), had also been there earlier in the day.
In Spanish to his dog
As usual, Fernandez also answered questions in English and Spanish yesterday. Her fluency in three languages captivated American Mary Carillo, former doubles champion turned NBC analyst.
After the press briefing, she approached Leylah to question her about her trilingualism, inherited from the Spanish-speaking roots of her father Jorge. And also, to find out in which language the young athlete felt most comfortable.
Faced with the Quebecer’s hesitation, Carillo asked her: “But if you had a dog, what language would you speak to it? »
“We once had a dog and I spoke to him in Spanish,” Fernandez replied with a laugh. We had done the test. He was asked to go out and it was only in this language that he obeyed! »
Despite her growing notoriety, Leylah has yet to lose her candor.