Canadian women made history on Sunday by advancing to the elite, eight-country field of the Fed Cup World Group next year, the most prestigious tennis tournament featuring national teams.
It will be the first time Canada has taken part in the top tier of Fed Cup.
Standing in Canada’s way at Québec City over Easter weekend was Slovakia. However, on the first day of competition, Canada took a commanding lead in the best-of-five series with London 2012 Olympian Aleksandra Wozniak beating Jana Cepelova 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
That comeback by Wozniak (photo above) set the stage for Eugenie Bouchard to give her country a stranglehold in the contest. Bouchard responded in front of her fans (who call themselves Genie Army), winning 7-6 (7-0), 2-6, 6-1 over Kristina Kucova.
Canada then had three chances on Sunday to wrap-up the series with Bouchard up first against Cepelova. A leg injury was hounding the Slovak and Bouchard, though unhappy with her own game over two days, took advantage winning 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.
The 3-0 lead guaranteed a spot in the 2015 Fed Cup World Group that will also feature 2014 finalists Czech Republic and Germany, along with Australia, France, Italy, Poland and Russia.
The relief was visible in the faces of Canadian players, especially Bouchard.
“I’m happy, I’m happy to play for my country,” Bouchard said before thanking her fans for the tremendous support they have given her all year.
“I think tennis is growing in Canada, with the success of Milos (Raonic), myself, Vasek (Pospisil) – we have a few of us coming up, and I think it just encourages more kids to play and you know, we kind of see ourselves more of a tennis nation.”
While Fed Cup is important to national teams, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour calendar isn’t always flexible to the needs of federations wishing its top players to represent their country.
Up and coming stars like Bouchard (pictured above, ranked 18th in the world for singles), are forced to decide between their individual ambitions and the Fed Cup. This is something the 20-year old Bouchard has been weighting, and addressed it when asked about 2015.
“I definitely want to play if I can. I’ve said before, scheduling is definitely a tough thing with Fed Cup. My priorities are of course WTA Tour and the Grand Slams, but if it works out I would be proud to play for my country.”
With the Slovakia series technically over, Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman played an exhibition doubles match against Janette Husarova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. A doubles match – not necessarily with the same players – would’ve been the tiebreaker if the Slovaks had pushed Canada to the distance. Slovakia beat Canada 6-4, 7-5 to salvage a win from the weekend.
The 2014 Fed Cup World Group final between Czech Republic and Germany will take place on November 8-9 with the Czechs hosting.