Canadian Leylah Fernandez comes up short in Australian Open juniors final


Denmark's Clara Tauson, left, holds her trophy after defeating Canada's Leylah Annie Fernandez in the girl's singles final at the Australian Open. (Mark Baker/AP)

MELBOURNE, Australia — Top-seeded Clara Tauson of Denmark denied Canadian Leylah Fernandez a tournament trophy for the second consecutive week.

This time it was a Grand Slam.

Tauson beat the fourth-seed from Laval, Que., on Saturday in the Australian Open girls’ singles final 6-4, 6-3.

"It wasn’t the result I wanted, but it was an amazing experience. I’m just happy that I was able to make it to the final, but also disappointed that I couldn’t play my best tennis today," said Fernandez.

Tauson also beat the Canadian 6-2, 6-3 in the final of a warmup event last week about two hours east of Melbourne Park, in Traralgon.

Saturday’s match was played at the 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena where, a few hours later, the women’s singles final between Petra Kvitova and Naomi Osaka would be contested.

"I was very comfortable there from the beginning. I was very happy and excited to be able to play in Rod Laver Arena, and just to be in this big, beautiful stadium," Fernandez said.

The diminutive Fernandez was dwarfed by the taller, more powerful Tauson. Both are 16 and coached by their fathers.

At times, the Canadian lefty was a little overwhelmed by Tauson’s power. And as a result, she had trouble imposing her own game.

Fernandez also double-faulted three times to surrender the first of three service breaks in the second set.

"I wasn’t making the shots that I would normally make, and today wasn’t my day. She played great tennis. She did what she had to do, and I just made more mistakes than she did," Fernandez added. "I just have to just keep working hard, talk to my coach and see what I can improve for the next time we meet."

Fernandez reached the semifinals in her first-ever junior Grand Slam at Roland Garros last spring.

She will jump into the top 10 in the ITF junior rankings next week.

After that, her schedule will be a matter of management, and budget.

Fernandez moved to Boynton Beach, Fla. last fall to rejoin her family, which had relocated there. Younger sister Bianca also plays tennis.

The family has opted not to integrate into Tennis Canada’s strict high-performance structure, preferring to continue with father Jorge coaching her.

As such, they are eligible for only a minimum of financial assistance from the national federation — an amount all but used up by this inaugural 2019 trip to Australia.

As a 14-year-old, Tauson played 12 junior tournaments during the 2017 season. Fernandez played only six, while competing in 11 International Federation pro events against players much older than she. All but one of them was in the U.S., which was more feasible financially.

Fernandez will remain Down Under another week to play her first pro-level tournament of the 2019 season. She has entered the $60,000 ITF event in Launceston, Tasmania with her WTA ranking, which stands at No. 434.

Fernandez will play the singles qualifying, along with fellow Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski. Dabrowski played the women’s and mixed doubles at the Australian Open.

During the trophy presentations, Fernandez was introduced as being from the U.S. The teenager quickly set them straight in a poised runner-up speech.

"When I heard that, I said to myself that I’ll correct them quickly, that I’m a Canadian and I’m very happy to represent Canada," she said. "I see the professionals, how they do their speeches after the match, so I tried to repeat what they say. It was a little nerve-wracking… I’m not very good at speeches."

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