Leylah Fernandez looking ahead to 2023 after injury-beset year of tennis

Canada's Leylah Fernandez celebrates after winning a point against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic on the 4th day of the Billie Jean King Cup tennis finals at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Scotland Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. (Kin Cheung/AP)

It was an up and down 2022 campaign for Canadian tennis player Leylah Fernandez.

After being derailed with a Grade 3 stress fracture in her foot at the French Open in May, the 20-year-old recovered in time to be the hometown headliner at the National Bank Open in Toronto in August. Fernandez lost in the Round of 32, but the young star’s return was a welcomed sight for Canadian tennis fans regardless.

On Thursday, Fernandez reflected on her 2022 season in an interview on Going Deep with Donnovan Bennett.

“It’s been a hard year with a lot of challenges with the injuries, but I learned a lot about myself,” said Fernandez, who is currently the highest ranked Canadian woman on the tour. “I was just super happy that I was able to finish the year healthy and just looking forward for 2023.”

After starting the year ranked 24th in WTA singles rankings and climbing to a career-high 13th before her injury, missing the entire grass season set Fernandez back, and she now sits at 40.

But if this year has shown anything about the up-and-comer, it is her resilience and maturity in the face of adversity.

“Physically, it’s hard to come back to the fitness that I was at before, but also emotionally, it was hard to accept in the beginning that it was going to take me a couple of months to get back,” said Fernandez. “Knowing that I was able to get back and see that the body is still strong and is still able to push through those moments has given me confidence.”

With the guidance of her father and coach, Jorge Fernandez, and unencumbered by injury, the Montreal-native is looking for 2023 to be her strongest campaign yet.

“Every single day working with my dad — not only as a coach, but also as a dad — has inspired me a lot because I see how hard he works,” said Fernandez. “I’m just so happy that he’s still part of my team.”

Fernandez’s first major challenge of the new year will be the Australian Open in January, a Grand Slam that she has never, in three attempts, escaped the Round of 128.

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