SEVILLE – Canada, backed by their energetic fans, swept hosts Spain 3-0 in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals on Wednesday as they got off to a strong start in Group C.
Canadian rookie Marina Stakusic beat Rebeka Masarova 6-3, 6-1 in a brilliant display, before Leylah Fernandez edged Sara Sorribes 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (9-7) to clinch the tie.
Stakusic, ranked 258th, made light work of Masarova, who is 65th, for her first victory over a top-100 player.
“I feel amazing, I’m super happy with my performance today, I just tried to have great energy from the beginning and just show I belong here,” said the 18-year-old.
“It’s my best victory for sure… the Canadian fans motivated me so much today, and the Spanish fans too, I like any noise. For me, it was very motivating.”
As impressive as Stakusic was, Masarova made 33 unforced errors and was far from her best.
It left the pressure on teammate Sorribes and perhaps that told as she squandered three set-points in the tiebreak before Fernandez snatched an exciting first set.
Sorribes failed to convert two more set points in the second set tiebreak and Fernandez triumphed.
“There are something that I need to work on but my Canadian teammates and my Canadian cheering squad… gave me positivity and helped me in the tough moments,” said Fernandez.
Eugenie Bouchard and Gabriela Dabrowski polished off the sweep with a 6-2, 7-5 doubles win over Sorribes and Masarova.
Earlier, Italy scored an impressive 2-1 win over France in their opening Group D tie, winning both singles rubbers.
Jasmine Paolini beat France’s Caroline Garcia 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 6-4 in a thrilling battle, after Martina Trevisan beat Alize Cornet 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, earning Italy the tie. Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic then clinched a 5-7, 6-2, 10-6 win over Trevisan and Elisabetta Cocciaretto.
Four-time winners Italy have now beaten France in five of their last seven meetings, edging this battle between two of the four ever-present countries at the tournament, along with Australia and Britain.
“I’m very happy to bring the point to my team, when I play for Italy, for my country, it’s always special,” said Trevisan.
Cornet, meanwhile, said she was unwell in the second set. “I was feeling pretty good before and during the first set,” she explained.
“Then my form dropped. I started to feel a bit dizzy, and I think she changed her strategy and she played much smarter from the second set.”
The Italians would seal their spot in the semi-finals after beating Germany on Thursday. AFP
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