Team Canada presented by Sobeys has won the Billie Jean King Cup for the first time in the nation’s history.
Marina Stakusic and Leylah Annie Fernandez delivered straight-set singles win to give Canada a 2-0 victory in the final over Italy.
After Stakusic took the first match in the tie between Team Canada and Italy, Fernandez made quick work of Jasmine Paolini in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 to give the country its first-ever victory at the Billie Jean King Cup.
Canada was bulletproof in its path to the title. In its ties against Spain, Poland, Czechia, and now Italy, the team only lost one match. The team played with such fervour and intensity that an early elimination never quite seemed to be in the cards.
From the moment the match began, Fernandez was locked in. It didn’t take long for the Canadian to take the lead as she started the first set by breaking Paolini’s serve. Though the Italian would come close to doing the same in the following game, Fernandez maintained her composure and held her serve.
Paolini then fought back, holding her next serve and breaking Fernandez in the fourth game to even the set. From there, Fernandez didn’t stumble once. She went on to hold her next two service games and break Paolini’s serve twice for a quick route in the first set.
The second set went down in a similar fashion as Paolini held her first serve to take her first and only lead of the entire match. Fernandez took the next three games in a row, and while Paolini held her third service of the set, it wouldn’t get much closer than that.
With a 3-2 lead in the second set, Fernandez saw the title was within reach and flipped a switch. She held her serve in the following game and then converted a break point to bring the title within a single game. Paolini, with her back against the wall, broke Fernandez’s serve in turn, but could not hold hers in the final game, leading Canada to the victory.
Paolini’s final service game went into a deuce but the Canadian wasn’t intimidated by the stakes and finished the match with a massive break to notch the Billie Jean King Cup title for Canada.
While Fernandez was solid in her service games. Her ability to convert six break points across both sets was the difference-maker. She remained undefeated all week – and all throughout the event in 2023 – and helped make history for Canadian tennis.
STAKUSIC CAPS OFF DREAM WEEK
Marina Stakusic defeated Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening match of the final on Sunday to set up Fernandez’s finish.
As she has for much of the week, the Canadian seemed completely unphased by the occasion, handling the ups-and-downs in the biggest match of her life. Despite the Italian’s persistence, Stakusic was able to put her away 7-5, 6-3 to give Canada the lead.
Despite the straight-set scoreline, the match was tight with Stakusic hitting just one more winner than her opponent. The Canadian took advantage of Trevisan’s second serves, winning 76 per cent of those points, which contributed to her six breaks on 13 opportunities.
Playing in the biggest match of her life and one of the biggest matches in Canadian tennis history, Stakusic looked completely at home as she opened with a hold to love and then ripped a big return to break for a 2-0 lead.
Canada has been a problem for Trevisan at the Billie Jean King Cup and when she held serve for 1-3, it was the first game she had ever won against Canada in the competition.
But that hold sparked the Italian, who started to find her range and got Stakusic stuck on the defensive. The result was four straight games for Trevisan who set herself up to serve for the set at 5-4.
It was then Stakusic’s turn to go on a run, immediately setting up triple break point and converting the second to get back level at 5-5. The Canadian then held and broke one more time, claiming the last three games of the opening set.
The second set got off to a wild start with five of the first six games of the set going against the server. Three of those five breaks were in favour of Stakusic. The Canadian had four chances to close out the match on Trevisan’s serve in the eighth game, but the Italian hung tough to put the pressure of serving out the match on the Canadian.
But Stakusic did not let the missed opportunities get to her. She easily held to love to put Canada on the verge of winning the title.
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