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Stinson: Leila Fernandez returns from two-month injury layoff

Canadian Leylah Fernandez goes to return a ball to Storm Sanders of Australia during a first-round match at the National Bank Open in Toronto on Aug. 8, 2022.
Leila Fernandez of Canada He returns the ball to Australia's Storm Sanders in the first round of the National Bank Open in Toronto on August 8, 2022. Photo by John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

He said he realized he was not patient. This suggests that the rain delay before she returned to her competitive activities probably wasn't all that pleasant.

Fernandez, 19, from Montreal, has been idle since early June after suffering a stress fracture in her right leg at the French Open.

On Monday night, after a rain-related delay, Fernandez finally hit a tennis ball for the first time since spring at Toronto's National Tennis Her Center, where the National Bank Her Open will be held. rice field.

In short, there was a lot of waiting.

Fernandez said at a press conference when she arrived in Toronto for a tournament formerly called Rogers Her Cup, that she would have to go off her feet for a long time. was harder than expected, she said.

"I know I am very impatient," she said with a smile. Last year's shocking U.S. Open finalist watched TV and read during her layoff, but before her father and coach Jorge told her to stop, she said, "Tennis. She staggered on her way to the court, she said, also trying. She just got her doctor's clearance to resume hitting balls a few days ago. Fernandez said she was heartbroken for a few days after learning in the spring that her injury was serious, but said she tried to see the positive: She could spend more time It allowed her family and her family to spend more quiet time than usual, which a professional tennis career usually doesn't allow. "I tried to see it as a little ray of hope," she said.

Her first play in Toronto was Australian qualifier Storm, who It was Sanders. A measure of Fernandez's success was her 41st out of the top 43 in the WTA rankings, holding the No. 13 seed in Toronto, even though she was away for more than two months mid-season. That's it.

There were short- and long-term questions looming over Canada's latest tennis star before the rains added a new level of uncertainty to her day. The former was simple. how was your leg? is she rusty? Is her conditioning up to the level required for a full match? The latter one is a bit more tricky, simply because there's an obvious recent precedent for Fernandez's story.

Before Bianca Andreescu, and her Eugenie Bouchard, rose to stardom on the WTA's main tour for a single season, their meteoric rise was almost immediately complicated by injuries. rice field.

Andreescu missed most of two seasons after Supernova 2019. This absence coincided in part with the COVID-19 pandemic, during which she lost her joy in sports. But she said her long pause helped her rediscover. her passion for tennis. She will take her court here at center Tuesday and try to reclaim her 2019 title.

Bouchard briefly became one of tennis' biggest stars after a big run in her 2014 Grand Slam season, but she struggled. She competed the following season, and at the 2015 US Open in New York, she slipped on a wet floor and suffered a freak injury to her head. Even though she's only 28, she's far from regaining her sustained form in her breakout year and she's once again in the middle of a lengthy injury layoff.

All of this makes the Fernandez case interesting.

Even during her runaway in New York last year, including victories over Naomi Osaka, Angeline Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Alina Sabalenka, she lost to fellow newcomer Emma Radukhanu in the finals. But she is an unconventional opponent for the veteran WTA player. Some of them were visibly frustrated trying to make sense of the diminutive, left-handed Canadian. , reached the quarter-finals in Paris and finished in the top 15 of the WTA rankings.

Despite the multi-million dollar prize money and subsequent flood of sponsorship deals that changed her life at the US Open, Fernandez again impressed for someone in her late teens. I was playing tennis. she is so devastating.

Momentum once lost can be difficult to regain.

Andreescu is candid about how he had to walk away from tennis because he cared too much about winning or losing. This is from someone who has already done something no other Canadian has ever done to her, even though she never hit another ball. Grand Slam Singles Champion.

Fernandez sounds like she's always avoided dark places.

The last time she played in Toronto was three years ago, when she was still 16, but she was in the same place as legends like Venus and Serena, Williams. She was in awe of being on the same court. Now she will stand up for both of them. "My expectations are high," Fernandez said candidly.

She was beginning her journey back to New York. Even if it took her a little longer than expected.

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