Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski, second from right, and Leylah Fernandez, second from left, celebrate with their teammates after defeating Czech Republic's Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova during the semifinal doubles tennis match at the Billie Jean King Cup finals at La Cartuja stadium in Seville, southern Spain, Spain, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Fernandez and Stakusic propel Canada to first-ever Billie Jean King Cup title

For the first time in the nation’s history, Team Canada wins the the Billie Jean King Cup title. Marina Stakusic and Leylah Fernandez delivered straight-set singles wins to give Canada a 2-0 victory over Italy in the final taking place in Seville, Spain.

Canada was relentless on its path to the title. In its ties against Spain, Poland, Czechia and now Italy, the team only lost one match.

In the opening singles match of the best-of-three tie, Marina Stakusic defeated Martina Trevisan 7-5, 6-3 to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Stakusic took a 4-1 lead in the opener before Trevisan roared back to take a 5-4 lead. Stakusic broke her opponent twice to take the set. 

Only when victory was within reach did Stakusic, ranked 258th in the world, wobble as four match points went adrift as Trevisan served at 2-5. She powered through her next service game, ending the contest with a forehand winner.

“I’m so happy and honoured that I was able to play this week,” Stakusic told the crowd after her straight-sets win. “This has been the best experience of my life.”

In the second singles match, Leyla Fernandez made quick work of Jasmine Paolini in straight sets of 6-2, 6-3 to secure the 2-0 win over Italy. It didn’t take long for the Canadian to lead as she started the first set by breaking the Italian’s serve. Though Paolini would come close to doing the same in the following game, Fernandez maintained her composure and held her serve.  

Paolini fought back, holding her next serve and breaking Fernandez in the fourth game to even the set. From there, Fernandez was locked in. 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 similarly 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. Fernandez saw the title was within reach.

With a lead of 3-2, she held her service 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 secure the Billie Jean King Cup title for Canada. Fernandez converted six break points across both sets to be the difference-maker.

Fernandez remained undefeated all week, throughout the event in 2023 and helped make history for Canadian tennis. Canada’s previous best result at the women’s team event was a semifinal appearance in 1988. 

Fernandez plays hero as Canada advances to first ever Billie Jean King Cup final

Canada advanced to the final of the Billie Jean King Cup after upsetting World No. 5 Czechia.

Canada staved off elimination twice after Marina Stakusic dropped her opening match; all thanks to back-to-back incredible performances from Leylah Fernandez.

Once again, Fernandez played hero for Team Canada, taking down World No. 7 Marketa Vondrousova in her singles’ match, and teaming up with Gabriela Dabrowski in her doubles’ match to seal the victory.

In that decisive doubles’ match, Fernandez and Dabrowski stunned the fourth-ranked doubles pair in the world, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, in straight sets of 7-5, 7-6(3).

The day did not get off to an ideal start for Canada as Marina Stakusic lost to Krejcikova, 6-2, 6-1 in the opener.

After winning two preliminary round matches against opponents ranked in the WTA Top 100, Stakusic had no answer for World No. 10 Krejcikova.

Tennis Canada / Martin Sidorjak

Canada’s hopes rested on 21-year-old Leylah Fernandez. 

Fernandez – ranked 33rd in singles – was matched up against reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

Fearless as they come, Fernandez opened the match perfectly, winning the first set by a score of 6-2.

Vondrousova, the seventh-ranked player in the world, had a big answer in the the second set, winning 6-2 to tie the match.

During the third set, Fernandez grabbed the first break and didn’t look back. She saved three consecutive break points in the deciding game, and hung on to win 6-3.

In the winner-take-all doubles match, Canada took the lead in the first set by breaking serve on a double fault from Siniakova in the 11th game of the set. Dabrowski then wrapped up the set by holding serve to take the set 7-5.

Tied 3-3 in the second set, Canada looked to have delivered the decisive blow by breaking the Czechs, but they broke back to hold onto momentum and eventually force a tiebreaker.

Fernandez and Dabrowski dominated the tiebreak however, winning with a mix of quality serves, winners and drop shots. They won the tiebreak 7-3 to send Canada to square off against Italy for a shot at their first ever Billie Jean King Cup.

The Italians got the better of Slovenia in the semifinal, thanks to two victories in the singles matches.

This will be the first appearance ever for Canada, while the Italians will be making their sixth final appearance since 2006, but first since they were crowned champions in 2013.