PARIS (Reuters) - Having reached the third round on their French Open main draw debut, most teenagers might be content with merely pushing a two-time Grand Slam champion to the limit before losing.
Not Canada’s Leylah Fernandez.
The left-hander, who only turned 18 last month, came close to causing a massive shock on Saturday before going down 7-5 6-3 to 30-year-old Czech Petra Kvitova.
She led 5-1 in the first set and failed to convert a couple of break points, before Kvitova found top gear to fight past the youngster who won the French Open junior title last year.
Apart from a few double faults, the lightweight Fernandez did little wrong and Kvitova needed each and every one of the 32 winners she struck to finally move into the last 16.
There were some kind words from Kvitova to Fernandez but the Montreal-born player, who has targeted the top 10 next year, was not about to start patting herself on the back.
“Very disappointed. I just made too many mistakes when I was up, gave her momentum going back in,” she told reporters. “I just didn’t follow my coaches’ game plan that they gave me in the beginning of the match.”
It was a refreshing change to the cliches that are often wheeled out at post-match press conferences and indicated the fierce ambition burning inside Fernandez, who has gone one round better in each of her three Grand Slams.
Asked what she learned from her defeat by double Wimbledon champion Kvitova, she said: “Next time that we play against each other, or next time that I play a top player like her in a Grand Slam, it will definitely be different.
“I’ll be playing a lot better, making less mistakes, being more of, let’s say, a professional and follow my coaches’ game plan. To be playing against her in (Court) Suzanne Lenglen was a big opportunity for me. Unfortunately I didn’t execute.”
When Fernandez, who is jointly coached by her Ecuadorian father Jorge and Romain Deridder, was asked what she would do differently the next time she played Kvitova, she was coy.
“That’s something private. Maybe next time I’ll be executing and it will work and you guys will see a difference.”
Fernandez, who reached her first WTA final this year in Mexico, began the year ranked 209 and broke into the top 100 after reaching the second round at the U.S. Open.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ian Chadband
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