The 17-year-old Leylah Fernandez needed only two months of the new season to gain almost 100 positions on the WTA ranking list, qualifying for the main draw at the Australian Open and reaching the first WTA final in Acapulco last week.
The young Canadian qualified for the main draw in Mexico and went on to advance into a title match, losing in three sets to Heather Watson after losing steam in the decider, missing the opportunity to conquer the first WTA crown and having another chance this week in Monterrey.
In the first round, Lelylah took down a qualifier Stefanie Voegele in straight sets to set the clash against a former US Open champion Sloane Stephens. On Wednesday night, Fernandez toppled the struggling American (came to Monterrey with a 0-4 score in 2020) 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and five minutes for back-to-back WTA quarter-finals.
After a tight opener, Leylah lost only seven points on serve in sets two and three, mounting the pressure on Sloane and delivering three breaks in those to control the pace and bring the victory home, facing Elina Sviltolina or Olga Govortsova in the battle for the place in the semis on Friday.
"It was a great match. I was a little nervous in the beginning; Sloane is a great player who won a Grand Slam and I knew it wasn't going to be easy," Fernandez said. "I tried to use everything that I've trained, forgetting about the past and focusing on the present, which helped me a lot.
I've done a lot of mental training since I was very young and it's paying off now. In the first set, I had my chances, but I missed the opportunity. In the second and third sets, I just tried to calm my nerves and play through the match and try to figure things out to win."