Canada made national history in Seville, Spain on Sunday by winning its first Billie Jean King Cup title in sweeping fashion.
Marina Stakusic and Leylah Fernandez combined for two straight-set singles wins against four-time champion Italy in the final tie, giving the Canadians an insurmountable 2-0 lead and their first championship at the preeminent women’s tennis team event.
Stakusic, an 18-year-old ranked No.258, started the day with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over 43rd-ranked Martina Trevisan. Fernandez followed up by besting Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-3 in a Top 40 showdown.
The display completes a stunning showing for Canada, whose previous best result at the Billie Jean King Cup had been a semifinal result 35 years ago in 1988.
After Canada finally made its semifinal return by beating Poland and home team Spain in group play, captain Heidi El Tabakh and her squad kept up their winning momentum in the knockout stages.
Saturday’s semifinal against 11-time champion Czech Republic went smoothly as Fernandez notched upset wins in singles and doubles.
On Sunday, Canada had to stare down two Top 50 players in Trevisan and Paolini, each of whom had gone a perfect 3-0 in singles play coming into the championship tie.
Italy also had a fairly recent legacy of Billie Jean King Cup success in its favor, having won four titles in an eight-year span from 2006 to 2013.
But surging teenager Stakusic set the tone with a commanding victory over former Top 20 player Trevisan. The players were nearly equal in winners, but Stakusic took charge when facing Trevisan’s second service, with the Canadian claiming 76 percent of those points.
The quickly rising Stakusic, who has won three ITF Challenger titles in the second half of this year, capped off a breakthrough week by slamming a forehand winner past Trevisan on her fifth match point.
The victory marks Stakusic’s first win over a current Top 50 player in her burgeoning career. Stakusic had faced Top 50 opposition only once before, when she narrowly lost to Alycia Parks 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in Montreal qualifying this summer.
Heading into the second match, only five spots in the current rankings separated No.35 Fernandez and No.30 Paolini. But 2021 US Open finalist Fernandez had won both of their previous meetings in straight sets, including in Doha qualifying this year.
After taking the first set on Sunday, Fernandez had to grind out a number of lengthy games against Paolini en route to a 5-2 lead in the second set. With Fernandez serving for the title in that game, Paolini made one last stand, slamming a forehand winner on the sideline to break and keep the tie alive.
Fernandez, though, erased two game points at 5-3 before crushing a return winner to earn her first championship point. Fernandez then fired a passing winner beyond Paolini, taking the 1-hour and 39-minute win to wrap up Canada’s historic week.
The Canadian women needed just a single year to match the heroics of the Canadian men, who won their country’s first Davis Cup title 12 months ago.