January 18, 2022 | 2:24pm
MANILA, Philippines – The ghost of her first round Australian Open foldups visited Leylah Fernandez again Tuesday as she succumbed to local wildcard Maddison Inglis, 4-6, 2-6, at the Melbourne Park.
Coming into the match upbeat against an unranked foe, Fernandez instead faced a game Inglis, who dragged the 23rd-ranked Filipino-Canadian to a hold-hold game in the first six games before pouncing on the latter’s faulty serves to seize the momentum.
After a break in the seventh, Inglis never relented, trading serves in the next three games to clinch the set at the 1573 Arena court.
Fernandez had fought back in much deeper holes in her remarkable US Women’s Open run last year that saw her upend at least three top-ranked rivals on her way to a finals stint, but Inglis proved tougher than what she has been billed, breaking her stunned fancied rival in the first and third games in the second frame, leading to a shock one-hour, 23-minute victory.
It was just one of the reversals posted in the early going of the season’s first Grand Slam that had unranked Madison booting out fellow American No. 11 Sofia Henin, 7-6(2), 7-5; Chinese Wang Qiang repulsing No. 18 Coco Gauff of the US, 6-4, 6-2; and Romanian Sorana Cirstea bundling out Czech No. 20 Petra Kvitova, 6-2, 6-2.
“No, I seriously can’t. I am shaking. I am super stoked,” said a bewildered Inglis after essaying her first Aussie Open main draw win.
“I executed my game plan really well,” added the 24-year-old world ranked No. 133, who played with poise and nerves all throughout, going 3-of-5 on break points while frustrating Fernandez’s three cracks at breaks.
Fernandez, who had also failed to make it past the first round in her first two Aussie Open stints, actually never got into the groove, finishing with 30 unforced errors and only eight winners.
The stinging loss came after she pulled out of the doubles in the Adelaide International 1 and withdrew from the Sydney Classic due to injury.
She saved two match points, the first at 30-40 while trailing 1-5 as she endured three deuces before scoring on Inglis’ back-to-back backhand unforced errors to hold serve and cut the deficit to three games.
Serving for the match, Inglis unleashed an ace to make it 40-30 but Fernandez forced a deuce on the former’s forehand unforced error, only to blow her own break bid on a forehand miscue.
Inglis claimed the win as Fernandez yielded on back-to-back forehand unforced errors.
Unable to shake off Fernandez in the first six games, Inglis broke in the seventh as Fernandez fell through with two straight double faults.
Fernandez tried to get back in the next game but squandered a 30-15 lead as Inglis gained on the former’s backhand unforced error then came through with forehand winners to hold and preserve a 5-3 lead before trading serves in the next two.
Inglis rode on the momentum and broke Fernandez via love game in the first game of the second set, went 2-0 on another shutout game then broke the latter again by claiming three straight points coming off a 15-all count.
It was all the Aussie show from there as Inglis held serve and forced Fernandez to a hold-hold game the rest of the way to post the biggest win of her career.
Inglis will next face qualifier Hailey Baptiste of the US, who turnd back Caroline Garcia of France, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3, while Fernandez tries to recover in the doubles with Erin Routliffe against the Aussie pair of Lizette Cabrera and Priscilla Hon.