Two Canadian players qualified for a spot in the quarter-finals on Thursday 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.
After defeating a fellow Canadian in the opening round, the tournament’s fifth seed, Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC), was back in action on Thursday against compatriot and good friend Mélodie Collard (Gatineau, QC). In a tight opening set, with neither player willing to give an inch, it was Fernandez who got the late break to take the lead in the match. Momentum shifted slightly at the start of the second, as Collard had the opportunity to go up the early break, but was unable to convert. Fernandez needed just under an hour and a half to book her spot in the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Collard.
In doubles, Fernandez and Collard went from opponents to teammates as they took on the pair of Michael Bayerlova of the Czech Republic and Arianne Hartono of the Netherlands. The Canadian duo dominated the opening set, needing only 21 minutes to take the lead. Play got tighter in the second, but Fernandez and Collard were resilient, booking their spot in the doubles semi-finals by a score of 6-1, 7-5.
Françoise Abanda (Montreal, QC) was hoping to join her compatriot in the next round, but first she had to get past the fourth seed, Jessika Ponchet of France. This was the second career meeting between the two, as the Montreal native got the best of her opponent in the first round of qualifying at the 2018 US Open in an eventful 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 match. In Thursday’s rematch, Abanda was able to keep her calm and maintain her level throughout, taking it by a score 7-5, 6-2.
Among the tournament’s top seeds, only one was unable to move into the quarter-finals. Robin Anderson (no. 3) of the United States kicked things off by defeating compatriot Kennedy Shaffer 6-2, 6-4. Bibiane Schoofs (no. 2) of the Netherlands made quick work of American Quinn Gleason, winning 6-3, 6-1, while Samantha Murray (no. 6) outlasted Tess Sugnaux of Switzerland 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-4 in a match that lasted over three hours. Francesca Di Lorenzo (No. 1) was the only seed to fall on Thursday, losing out to Indy De Vroome of the Netherlands by a score of 6-4, 6-0.
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