Teens Fernandez, Gauff win at French Open; Bencic ousts Andreescu

Teenage sensations continue to thrive at 2022 Roland Garros, with 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez and 18-year-old Coco Gauff notching second-round wins on Wednesday.

No.17 seed Fernandez of Canada defeated Katerina Siniakova, the No.1-ranked doubles player, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 11 minutes.

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Last year’s US Open runner-up Fernandez ended off 10 of the 12 break points she faced in the match, while converting five of her six break points against 56th-ranked Siniakova.

“I think I just played a really good match, especially on important points in the first set,” Fernandez said. “In the second set, I was happy I was able to keep that offensiveness and keep going for my shots, and I’m glad that the balls went in when it mattered.”

Fernandez experienced success at Roland Garros even before she started her main-draw appearances in 2020. The Canadian won the junior singles title at the 2019 French Open.

Last year’s Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic will be Fernandez’s third-round opponent. No.14 seed Bencic held off 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu 6-2, 6-4, preventing Fernandez from experiencing an all-Canadian showdown at Roland Garros.

In their only prior meeting, Andreescu beat Bencic in the semifinals en route to her US Open title, but Bencic avenged that loss after 1 hour and 21 minutes of play.

Bencic is into the Roland Garros third round for just the second time, and she has yet to make the Round of 16 in Paris.

Of course it was a little hiccup at the end, but I think that’s tennis. … I think it’s always tough, you lack a little bit of focus against a top player and it can change quickly. But I’m happy I stayed strong in the important moments.

– Belinda Bencic

Bencic zipped to a 6-2, 5-1 lead without much trouble, but Andreescu turned on the afterburners to make one final push to 5-4 in the second set. Bencic slammed a strong serve to erase a break point in that game, then finished the match off at last on her third match point.

Just like Fernandez, Bencic is a former Roland Garros junior singles titlist, winning that title in 2013. Fernandez has beaten Bencic in their only previous match, at a Billie Jean King Cup tie in 2020.

Gauff advances, to face Kanepi

No.18 seed Gauff had a tough second set as well, but the American still moved past Alison van Uytvanck 6-1, 7-6(4) in 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Like Fernandez and Bencic, Gauff is also a former Junior French Open singles champion, collecting that title in 2018.

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Gauff, who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal in Paris last season, is the youngest player remaining in the draw. Her run to the elite eight of last year’s main draw was stopped only by eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova.

But 60th-ranked van Uytvanck is also a former Roland Garros quarterfinalist, reaching that stage in 2015. Van Uytvanck had 4-2 and 5-3 leads in the second set before Gauff gritted her way into the tiebreak and eked out the straight-sets win.

“I’m most happy with my movement and being able to create depth and create those opportunities to get short balls,” said Gauff. “I think that helped me a lot today.”

Gauff now has a stern third-round test against Grand Slam upset artist Kaia Kanepi, who at 36 is twice Gauff’s age. 46th-ranked Kanepi of Estonia, who reached the French Open quarterfinals in 2008 and 2012, defeated the 48th-ranked Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4, 6-4.

On Sunday, Kanepi knocked out GarbiƱe Muguruza in the first round for her tenth career Top 10 win at a Grand Slam event. Kanepi followed up by dispatching in-form Haddad Maia of Brazil, who is at a career-high ranking after going 9-1 in her last two WTA 125 events.

Kanepi also won the junior singles title at Roland Garros, back in 2001.

Gauff needed two tiebreak sets to oust Kanepi in their lone previous meeting, on the clay courts of Parma last year. Gauff went on to win that title.

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