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Billie Jean King Cup: Leylah Fernandez guides Canada to first ever title


By Matias Grez, CNN

(CNN) — Leylah Fernandez led Canada to a first ever Billie Jean King Cup triumph on Sunday, securing the title with a 6-2 6-3 win over Italy’s Jasmine Paolini.

Fernandez, the world No. 20, was undefeated in her five matches over the week as Canada beat Poland and host nation Spain to top Group C, before overcoming Czech Republic and then Italy in the semifinals and final.

“It means the world to me,” Fernandez, the 2021 US Open finalist, told CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell.

“Billie Jean King has done so much for women, for tennis, for women in tennis and to be able to win the world cup of tennis in her name definitely gives me a lot of confidence, but also the group of girls and Canada a lot of confidence.

“We’re just extremely proud of us and we can’t wait to celebrate tonight and we can’t wait to bring this baby back home.”

The relatively unknown Marina Stakusic, ranked 258 in the world, also played a huge role in Canada’s victory, finishing the week with a 3-1 record that included a 7-5 6-3 win over world No. 43 Martina Trevisan earlier in Sunday’s final, her first victory over a top-50 player.

Stakusic, who was something of a surprise pick by Canada captain Heidi El Tabakh, also recorded upset victories over Poland’s world No. 63 Magdalena Fręch and the 65th-ranked Rebeka Masarova of Spain.

“I’m so happy and honored that I could play this week, this has been the best week of my life,” Stakusic said in her on-court interview, per Reuters.

The 18-year-old hasn’t played any main WTA singles event this season but has won three ITF titles since the beginning of September and emphatically repaid the faith shown in her by El Tabakh.

“I don’t know what to say,” El Tabakh said. “I’m so proud of this team, these girls are incredible. It’s a dream come true.”

Canada’s victory comes just a year after the men clinched the country’s first Davis Cup title.

The team will receive $2.4 million for its victory, a new prize money record for the tournament.

After Fernandez’s victory, the Canadian team was presented with the trophy by Billie Jean King, as well as blue jackets like those regularly worn by the legendary tennis star.

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Article Topic Follows: Sports

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