Canada’s Stakusic upsets Spain’s Masarova in opener at Billie Jean King Cup Finals

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SEVILLE, Spain — Canada’s Marina Stakusic upset Spain’s Rebeka Masarova 6-3, 6-1 in the opening match for both teams Wednesday at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

Stakusic, an 18-year-old native of Mississauga, Ont., hushed the partisan crowd on the indoor hardcourts at Estadio la Cartuja in her first career appearance at the women’s team tennis tournament. 

The Canadian teen was in full control against her 65th-ranked opponent and showed no sign of nerves in the biggest match of her career.

Stakusic held at love in the opening game and opened the second set with back-to-back breaks of Masarova’s serve. 

The Canadian kept the pressure on with strong ground strokes and an effective net game. She also snuffed out any opportunities that the Spaniard had to establish some momentum.

Down 1-4 in the second set, Masarova had a triple-break point but the Canadian fought back for the hold. She closed out the win in a tidy 69 minutes.

Stakusic, who has won three tournaments on the lower-level ITF circuit this season, is ranked No. 258 on the WTA Tour rankings. 

Later Wednesday, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, the world No. 35 from Laval, Que., was scheduled to play 50th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo. 

The best-of-three tie will conclude with a doubles match. Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Fernandez were scheduled to play Cristina Busca and Marina Bassols. 

Doubles selections may be changed after the second singles match depending on results.

Canada is scheduled to continue Group C round-robin play Thursday against Poland. Spain and Poland were scheduled to play Friday.

Winners from each of the four three-team groups will advance to the semifinals. The championship game is set for Sunday.

Stakusic made her pro debut as a 14-year-old in 2019. She raised trophies this year in Berkeley, Calif., Valladolid, Spain, and most recently at the Tevlin Challenger in Toronto.

She has an 18-4 tour record in 2023 and was named ITF world tennis tour player of the month for September.

Fernandez, who reached the U.S. Open final in 2021, had a mediocre season this year but her play picked up this fall. Her first WTA Tour title of the season came at last month’s Hong Kong Open.

Fernandez entered play with an 11-3 BJK Cup record over seven career ties. She has risen to a career-high No. 17 in doubles.

Dabrowski and Fernandez teamed up for the deciding doubles win in a 3-2 victory over Belgium last April in Vancouver. The result sealed Canada’s berth in this week’s 12-team Finals.

Dabrowski has been in top form this season. The world No. 7 teamed with New Zealand’s Erin Routliffe to win the U.S. Open women’s doubles crown and they made it to the semifinals at the WTA Finals last weekend.

Tournament veterans Rebecca Marino of Vancouver (world No. 176) and Eugenie Bouchard of Montreal (world No. 273) remained on the Canadian bench. The team is missing 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., who has been nursing a back injury.

Canada’s best showing at this event came in 1988 when it reached the semifinals before falling to Czechoslovakia.

Switzerland beat Australia in last year’s final in Glasgow. Canada did not make it out of group play. 

Spain will also host the Final 8 stage of the Davis Cup Finals from Nov. 21-26 in Malaga. Canada is the defending champion at the men’s team event.

Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime headlines a Canadian roster that includes Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., Montreal’s Gabriel Diallo and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 8, 2023. 

The Canadian Press

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