Nine Canadian players were in first round singles action on Wednesday at the Saguenay National Bank Challenger. Sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the tournament offers $60,000 USD in prize money and is being held from October 21 to 27 at the Saguenay Indoor Tennis Club.
Fans were treated to some exciting Canadian content as there were three back-to-back all-Canadian match-ups to finish off the first round. The fifth seed Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC) was facing compatriot Ariana Arseneault (Richmond Hill, ON), who came through qualifying to reach the main draw. It was a tight first set, with the players engaging in lengthy rallies. After edging out her opponent in the opener, Fernandez took control in the second and notched a 6-3, 6-1 victory.
The second all-Canadian match featured Françoise Abanda (Montreal, QC) and qualifier Sarah-Maude Fortin (Montreal, QC). Returning to the court after experiencing some injury problems in 2019, Abanda got the better of her younger and more inexperienced compatriot. She needed just over an hour to move into the next round with a 6-3, 6-3 victory.
For her part, Mélodie Collard (Gatineau, QC), who received a Wild Card for the main draw, was up against fellow Canadian Ayan Broomfield (ON). Despite playing in only her fifth tournament on the professional tour, the 16-year-old Collard got off to a strong start and put on a dominant performance. She notched her first singles win at the pro level with a 6-2, 6-0 victory.
Four Canadians managed to qualify for the main draw, including 14-year-old Marina Stakusic (Toronto, ON). A member of the National Tennis Centre in Montreal, the young Canadian was playing in only her fourth tournament on the professional tour. Despite putting up a valiant fight in the opening set, Stakusic fell to Tara Moore of Great Britain by a score of 7-6(4), 6-1.
Wild Card recipients Raphaelle Lacasse (Montreal, QC) and Maria Tanasescu (ON) were also in first round action on Wednesday. Lacasse had the tough task of facing the tournament’s second seed Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands, falling by a score of 6-3, 6-1. For her part, Tanasescu dropped her opening match 6-4, 6-4 to American qualifier Kennedy Shaffer.
In doubles, the Canadian duo of Arseneault and Jada Bui fell in a closely fought three set match to the third seeds Tara Moore and Emina Bektas of the United States by a score of 6-3, 6-7(9), 10-6.
Among the other top seeds, Samantha Murray of Great Britain (no. 6) got the better of Viktoria Morvayova of Slovakia 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 while no. 8 Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden fell to American qualifier Jessica Livianu 7-5, 6-3.
The Saguenay National Bank Challenger is the final Challenger tournament held in Quebec in 2019. The tournament was preceded by the National Bank Challenger tournaments in Drummondville, Gatineau and Granby earlier this year.
*Feature photo: Valérie Simard