The Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs concluded on Saturday as Team Canada sealed its place in next year’s Qualifiers with a resounding 4-0 victory over Serbia at the Sport Hall Ibar in Kraljevo, Serbia.
The final day of action began with the No. 1 players from both teams going head-to-head. Leylah Fernandez (Laval, QC) of Canada and Nina Stojanovic of Serbia were nominated by team captains Heidi El Tabakh and Dusan Vemic respectively. In a nail-biting match, Fernandez fought valiantly from a set down to clinch the second set. In the decider, the Canadian battled to earn six match point opportunities but Stojanovic held strong until the very end. Eventually, Fernandez was able to wear away the Serbian’s resolve and sealed Canada’s victory in the tie with a clutch 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.
“I’m honestly very proud of myself that I was able to push through the nerves of this match,” Fernandez commented in her post-match press conference. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and the way that she played in the beginning, in the first set and the whole match proved how great of a player she is. But today I tried to fight through everything, the Serbian team, my emotions and I was happy I was able to pull through in the third set, especially with all the match points I missed.”
As the tie was won with Fernandez’s victory, the day’s final match was in doubles. As a precautionary measure, Team Canada Captain El Tabakh replaced Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) with Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC) to play alongside Carol Zhao (Toronto, ON). The Canadian pair faced Serbian duo Ivana Jorovic and Aleksandra Krunic in a well-contested match. The home team won the first set 7-6(4) before the Canadian’s came back to claim the second 6-3. It was then onto the match tiebreak, in which Zhao and Marino dominated their opponents [10-0], ensuring Team Canada sealed a 4-0 triumph.
“I’m super happy to finish the tie against Serbia with a win in doubles,” said Marino following the match. “Playing with Carol was incredibly fun, and I enjoyed it immensely. And to get the clean sweep was just the extra cherry on top.”
“It was special to be back out there again for the Billie Jean King Cup and to share the court with Rebecca,” added Zhao. “We had a lot of fun together. I’m very happy to end the tie with a win against a strong Serbian team, who have been such gracious hosts.”
“It was definitely a battle from start to finish,” Team Canada captain Heidi El Tabakh said in her post-tie press conference. “I know that the scoreline was 4-0 but it was much closer than that. We were up 2-0 after two tough matches yesterday. And then Leylah’s match today was the decider. In my opinion, it could have swung either way, so it was a battle until the end.”
The victory over Serbia means Canada will compete in next year’s Qualifiers with a place in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals on the line.