Laval’s Leylah Fernandez allowed Canada to maintain its hopes of qualifying for the ultimate duel of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals for the first time in its history thanks to a victory in three sets of 6-2, 2-6, 6 -3 against the Czech Marketa Vondrousova on Saturday in Seville, Spain.
A doubles match will decide later Saturday whether Canada or the Czech Republic will face Italy in the grand final on Sunday.
Fernandez defeated the seventh-ranked player in the world despite eight double faults — she had only five in her previous two matches this week — and despite being the victim of a break of serve in the first game of the decisive round.
Fernandez, ranked 35th in the WTA, however reacted with panache, collecting a break in the next game and another in the fourth game.
She also showed remarkable grit in the ninth game of the third set when she erased three break points to finally close the duel after two hours and two minutes of action thanks to a backhand that Vondrousova could not recover.
For Fernandez, this is a fifth career victory against a player ranked in the top-10.
Two very different sets
The first two sets between Fernandez and Vondrousova, two left-handers, were almost exact opposites.
The Laval resident won the first four games of the clash, including the very first, on her serve, after facing six break points.
Vondrousova tried to start a comeback when she won Fernandez’s serve, then her own, to make it 4-2.
However, Fernandez closed the door on her serve in the seventh game and added a third break in the first set, taking advantage of a forehand that was too long from the Czech.
In the second set, Vondrousova looked more like the player who won the Wimbledon Open in July.
She won the first four games of the set, giving only seven points to Fernandez.
Vondrousova notably won 85 percent of points after placing her first point in play, compared to just 39 percent in the first set and faced no break points.
In the first singles match, young Canadian Marina Stakusic lost in two sets of 6-2, 6-1 against Barbora Krejcikova.
After two high-level and not necessarily expected performances earlier this week, Stakusic had very few opportunities to find her rhythm, particularly on her serve, which she only won twice in eight attempts, facing a seasoned rival, champion of the French Open in 2021 and holder of 10th place in the WTA rankings.
Stakusic, who entered the competition ranked 258th in the world, had her best moments of the match in the second game of the second set. After losing her serve in the initial game – which also happened to her in the first set – Stakusic displayed her fighting skills.
The Canadian got her only two break chances of the match and converted the second when Krejcikova sent a crosscourt forehand out of bounds, making the score 1-1 in the second set.
Krejcikova responded by winning 12 of the next 14 points, including 10 in a row, en route to two more breaks of serve and a 4-1 lead.
Serving against a 1-5 deficit, Stakusic saved a first match point with a backhand winner in parallel. However, she gave in in the second when Krejcikova managed a nice drop shot with a cross-court forehand that the Canadian was unable to reach.
Despite this defeat, Stakusic opened many eyes during the week. Her singles victories, first against Spaniard Rebeka Masarova in two sets, then against Poland’s Magdalena Frech in three sets, after conceding the first set, helped Canada reach the stage of the semi-finals.
In the other semi-final duel, Italy beat Slovenia thanks to victories by Martina Trevisan and Jasmine Paolini in singles.
For Italy, which has won this competition on four occasions, this will be their first appearance in the final since 2013.
While Canada looks to advance to the ultimate duel of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals for the first time in its history, the Czech Republic hopes to win the tournament for a 12th time.
The United States, which the Czech Republic eliminated on Friday, dominates with 18 titles.