SEVILLE, Spain, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Canada’s Leylah Fernandez steered her country to their maiden Billie Jean King Cup title as she delivered the decisive point in a 2-0 defeat of Italy in Seville on Sunday.
The former U.S. Open runner-up maintained her stunning form throughout the week as she beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2 6-3.
After the 21-year-old converted match point the Canadian team celebrated wildly on court in front of their jubilant fans.
“I don’t know what to say,” Canada’s captain Heidi El Tabakh said. “I’m so proud of this team, these girls are incredible.
“It’s a dream come true.”
Teenager Marina Stakusic had earlier put Canada within sight of glory thanks to a stunning victory over Martina Trevisan.
The 18-year-old, 258th in the WTA rankings, produced a nerveless display to win 7-5 6-3 against an opponent ranked 43.
Only when victory was within her grasp did Stakusic wobble when four match points went adrift as Trevisan served at 2-5.
But she shrugged off that disappointment and powered through her next service game, ending the contest with a crunching forehand winner.
“I’m so happy and honoured that I could play this week, this has been the best week of my life,” Stakusic, who did not even play a WTA main draw match this year, said on court.
It was then over to Fernandez who duly claimed her fourth singles win of the week by outclassing Paolini.
Fernandez had produced heroics the previous day against the Czech Republic when she beat Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova to keep Canada in the semi-final.
She then teamed up with Gabriela Dabrowski to defeat Czech multiple Grand Slam doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.
Fernandez delivered five points for her side but paid tribute to her team mates, including Eugenie Bouchard who won a doubles in the group stage.
“I can finally say this: We’re world champions, and we rightfully deserve it,” Fernandez said. “We worked really hard the past years, and we just keep improving.
“Now it has shown in the biggest stage in the world.”
Canada’s team will receive $2.4 million in prize money — a record for the women’s team event formerly known as the Fed Cup.
They were also presented with the trophy by American King while team members received blue jackets like the ones so-loved by the trailblazing American.
“Congratulations to Canada for capturing their first Billie Jean King Cup title,” King said. “They played some incredible tennis this week and are deserving world champions, and it was a great honour to present them with the trophy.
“I’m already excited for 2024!”
Canada are the 13th nation to win the Billie Jean King Cup and the second new champions in two years following Switzerland’s triumph in Glasgow 12 months ago.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris
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