INDIAN WELLS:FERNANDEZ VS ROGERS

This was easily the match of the Round even though it features one unseeded player. Fernandez warmed up to the match the fastest despite a nervous opening service game. Check out 30-40, hitting the forehand on the volley key if she had allowed the ball to bounce the momentum would have been gone. Leylah eventually started to make a mark on the set. The most potent of her weapons? The backhand winner/volley. It is easy to forget that she has had her breakthrough year this year with the way she handles high pressure matches. It was not her usual efficient best in the first set for Rogers. She couldn’t cope with the power hitting from the Canadian. Her own hitting wasn’t the best either. Watch set point 5-2(40-30). Look how well inside her baseline Leylah is. Such short serves set you up struggle during the rally and so it proved.

If the first set was easy enough for the 2021 US Open finalist, it was a total nightmare in the second set. Why the abrupt turn around? More convincing serving from the American combined with hitting closer to the baseline during rallies. Check out 2-0(40-30). Great defensive return from the Leylah angled serve, it was neither one or the other(neither lob or a full shot) so it became tricky for Leylah to handle. Serving was good, Shelby with 67% to Leylah’s 65%. Double faulting wasn’t off the charts too, Leylah had the worst record in this one with 5 to 2 from Rogers. The one at set point 5-1(40-30) was the most untimely and disappointing of all. On the second serve she actually hits he ball with the of the racquet almost on the frame SO IT WAS BOUND TO THE wayward.

Third set now. It was more close and edge of the seat stuff from both players. More break point opportunities were crafted by both. Impressive was the way Shelby saved three of them with great serving but it wasn’t enough to hold serve. The very next game it was Laylah’s turn to face three break points, couldn’t save any of them. Both held serve going into the deciding tie break, forehand winners galore. Check out Leylah at 5-4(40-30) under pressure to hold serve. Now turning point and decisive moment of the breaker was Rogers getting the mini break at 3-2. Leylah was in trouble with the short forehand on the baseline leaving a lot of court for Shelby to target. Shelby now faces Ostapenko of Latvia in the last 8. Leylah has had a good year even though it looks like she will miss the year end championships in Mexico.

INDIAN WELLS:FERNANDEZ VS PAVLYUCHENKOVA

Two Grand Slam finalists coming head to head in Round 3 at Indian Wells. Anastasia reaching her maiden Grand Slam final in Paris whilst Leylah is coming off an incredible US Open run. Anastasia is less comfortable on a hard court than on clay but that didn’t stop her from claiming the first set with some incredible hitting. Watch 1-0(40-30) The follow through on the backhand was magnificent even though Leylah moves very well on court and got there. Anastasia was a great juniors player having come from the renowned Spartak tennis academy in Moscow. Although she hasn’t found the same success in the “seniors” she still has a good repetoire. A lefty’s backhand isn’t quite as prolific as the forehand but check out 2-2(40-15). Now check out 4-3(0-40). Anastasia is facing triple break points. Serve good, return by Leylah even better. Nastia gets low rotates the wrist on the forehand and that set up the point win. Don’t underestimate how difficult the volley at the net was from the Russian, she was moving forward at speed had to get the control right. So many great points in the first set, the following one is the pick of the bunch.

Check out 5-4 adv Anastasia on deuce. The point win by Leylah was crucial as it saved set point(a stay of execution it turned out to be). The lob by the Russian wasn’t deep and far enough to the corner and it had to be with how quick Leylah is. Serving was bang on my benchmark of 60% for both although this was double fault country, 8 for Leylah and 7 for Nastia. The tide of the match turned in the third set at 2-1 to Pavlyuchenkova. Nastia looked comfortable up until then having gone a break up and seemingly cruising. Like I said this was DF territory, check out how she got broken at 40-30, couldn’t clear the net twice which was disappointing. Leaning way too far back on the serve the ball is bound to come down faster. The third set went down to just the single break of serve. The ground stroke game from both was a sight to behold. The decisive moment of the final set, the fifth game at 2-2. Anastasia committed the lion share of unforced errors in this match but none more crucial than this one at 30-40 down. A little overconfidence perhaps from the Russian. Contrast this to the confident, in control forehand by Leylah at 3-2(40-30) to consolidate the break. A rare ace in this match from the Canadian sealed the deal and will now face Shelby Rogers in an even looking Round 4 match.

US OPEN:RADUCANU VS FERNANDEZ

Emma RADUCANU has had a 2021 she will never forget. Her win over Leylah makes her the first qualifier to win a major. Did we just see glimpses of the future in these two? I certainly hope so we have had a lot of false dawns in women’s tennis in recent years. Li Na, Swiatek you name it. Break point opportunities were aplenty for Leylah but only converted twice out of nine. Did I mention they are the first two teenagers together in a final since Hingis and Serena? They both deserve to be there on the back of their showing in this final. Like every other sport good fortune favors the brave. Check out 3-2(40-30) first set.

The forehand has been kind to Fernandez all tournament, she strikes it well here to deserve the luck from the net cord. The turning point was that pivotal 10th game with Leylah serving to stay in the first set at 5-4. This was a tough game for the Canadian which culminated in the decisive break by the Brit. The forehand down the line was expertly done, it was low ,deep and hit full on center off the racquet. Majority of the rallies went Emma’s way. The forehand failed Leylah at 3-2 second set 40-30. Fernandez probably showing Emma were she was going to play the shot pretty early, the qualifier telegraphing it with convincingly.

US OPEN:FERNANDEZ VS SABALENKA

Its the most unlikeliest US open final ever when Emma Raducanu meets Leylah Fernandez on Saturday. Most impressive of the two leading up to the final is unheralded Canadian Leylah who beat the number two(Sabalenka) and three seeds(Osaka) to reach it. Will focus on how she did it against the heavily fancied Belarussian. I will kick things off by saying Aryna served way too many double faults in this one. All the other service stats were positive in her favor including the first serve percentage(68% to 58%) and 70% of points won on first serve. But the 8 double faults were her undoing. That alone can be interpreted as 2 games lost to love on account of them. I got to be honest with you she is the one who lost the match rather than Leylah winning it. Saba started the first set well breaking the Canadian’s serve early to take a 2-0 lead but Fernandez quickly recovered. The forehand down the line was Aryna weapon of choice in the first set breaker’s opening two points. From there it went south for her. As I alluded too, she was her own enemy, the unforced errors , man. How poor was that backhand at 6-3?

Second set was more like it from the second seed. She opened by breaking Leylah to love. The point of the match, 2-1 Sabalenka with her 30-0 up. Leylah playing with fire with the backhand slice, it just cleared the net cord. The backhand pass to win the point needed to have pace on it and it did. I love the way Saba won games in this set to love, there is nothing like a good love game to set you up for a decider. Great serve and volley to win the set at 5-4(40-0). On to the third set, both players having traded breaks, game back on Sabalenka’s serve with Leylah leading 4-3(30-15). Look, for once there is nothing she could have done about the backhand down the line, not even a player from Mars. You need a bit of luck in tennis to get you over that line, Leylah had it in this match along with skill of course. Losing a match on your serve at 5-4 indicates being put under pressure and the way it ended shows. Another unforced error this time on the forehand might have delighted Leylah but crushed Aryna(Check out her disappointment on the top of the screen). She had every reason to be crushed. This will probably be her best chance at winning Slam for the first time with her being the only top 10 seed remaining in the tournament.

US OPEN:FERNANDEZ VS OSAKA

Third seeded Osaka couldn’t make it to the second week of the US open after a shock defeat to unseeded Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the third round. It is safe to say Osaka’s focus hasn’t truly recovered after the infamous exit from Roland Garros. The most disappointing part of the match for her was the fact that she won the first set and she had identical break point opportunities and breaks of serve as the Canadian teenager. A lefty’s forehand is her most potent weapon. Check out first game of the match with Osaka already on break point 40-30. Leylah gets down very low and clears the net which must have been great for her confidence. Naomi served up 15 Aces which again did not translate to the win disappointingly. Watching 6-5(40-0) i can see why aiming and landing the ball on the T almost guarantees the point.

The doggedness of Fernandez was astonishing in that second set. I have earlier said her forehand was the greatest weapon, have a look at the backhand at 1-1(40-0) to finish off a great service game. Naomi pretty slow to move to the center of the baseline thus was punished emphatically. A backhand with the ball so close to your body is one of the most difficult shots to pull off. When Naomi pulled it off at 5-5(40-30) to break Leylah, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was game over. The left arm used there to get the direction and power. The two time champ blew it in the next game. A shockingly bad forehand that missed even the doubles line. From there it went downhill for the Japanese, losing the tie break rather poorly. How about this for a delicate touch, 5-3(15-0 Osaka).You can only play that shot when you high on confidence and it showed that the Canadian had it in abundance. And she repeated the trick again at 5-4(30-0). The forehand by Osaka at match point the next point was all but a sign of resignation. Some time off for Osaka? Well I don’t agree with this. She needs to play more tennis to get her confidence back.