MELBOURNE, Australia — Four months later and on the other side of the world, Leylah Fernandez lost to a 133rd-ranked wild-card entry in her first Grand Slam tennis match since her runner-up finish at the US Open.
The 19-year-old Canadian lost 6-2, 6-4 to Maddison Inglis in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday, marking the third straight year she has failed to progress to the second round at the first tennis major of the year.
Fernandez made 30 unforced errors, dropped her serve three times and hit only eight winners on 1573 Arena against Inglis, who converted her third match point to complete her very first win in the main draw of a major. She lost in the first round at last year’s Australian Open to then-defending champion Sofia Kenin.
“Today was just not a good day. Too many mistakes,” Fernandez said.
For Fernandez, the venue and the vibe were a long way from her run to the final at Flushing Meadows, where she lost to Emma Raducanu.
In a match that brought the day to a close, Raducanu beat Sloane Stephens 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a seesawing first-round match between US Open champions.
The No. 17-seeded Raducanu won the first set in 17 minutes and seemed to be in complete control of her debut main draw match at Melbourne Park.
But Stephens, the 2017 US Open winner, converted her fifth break-point chance to open the second set in a 12-minute game that finished on a pair of double-faults from Raducanu.
Two early service breaks gave Raducanu a 5-0 lead in the third set, and she served it out to finish in 1 hour, 45 minutes. It was her first win of 2022.
Raducanu will play No. 98-ranked Danka Kovinic in the next round.
Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka appeared to be on the way out before she rallied from a set and a break down, winning nine straight games before completing a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 128-ranked Storm Sanders.
Third-seeded Garbine Muguruza, meanwhile, kept a perfect streak intact when she won her first-round match at the Australian Open for the 10th straight time, beating No. 77-ranked Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4 to open play on Rod Laver Arena on Day 2.
A runner-up in Australia in 2020 to Kenin — who was a first-round loser on Monday — Muguruza said she’s always extra cautious early in a big tournament.
“I am aware, I am aware,” Muguruza said, laughing, when asked whether she knew of her Melbourne Park streak. ”Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign. I’ve always gone through the first round.
“Very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”
Muguruza, a two-time major champion, next plays French veteran Alize Cornet, who beat Viktoriya Tomova 6-3, 6-3.
Sixth-seeded Anett Kontaveit, runner-up to Muguruza at last year’s WTA Finals, had a 6-2, 6-3 win over Katerina Siniakova. Seventh-seeded Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, opened with a 6-3, 6-0 win over 123rd-ranked British qualifier Harriet Dart.
Also advancing were No. 10 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and No. 14 Simona Halep, a former No. 1 and a two-time major winner who reached the 2018 final here at Melbourne Park.
No. 19 Elise Mertens beat Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 7-5, and former US Open champion Sam Stosur rallied to beat Robin Anderson of the U.S. 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3 to start her 20th — and last — Australian Open campaign.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova lost to Sorana Cirstea of Romania for the second straight year, this time 6-2, 6-2 in the first round.
“Yeah, I think that she likes my game, that she just is going for it,” said Kvitova, an Australian Open finalist three years ago. “I did have some health issues the whole month, as well, so it was tough to practice during home month.
“But the season is long, so I hope that it will turn around.’