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Stakusic, Fernandez power Canada to 1st-ever Billie Jean King Cup title

Canada’s women are Billie Jean King Cup champions for the first time, thanks to Leylah Fernandez’s straight-sets triumph (6-2, 6-3) over Italy’s Jasmine Paolini on Sunday at the international team tennis tournament in Seville, Spain.

Two hours earlier, Marina Stakusic of Mississauga, Ont., opened the best-of-three tie with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Martina Trevisan to improve to 3-1 on the week.

“It feels amazing and I’m extremely proud that I was able to get to represent Canada on the biggest stage,” Fernandez, the 2021 U.S. Open runner-up, said in an on-court interview. “To do it in front of Billie Jean, it means the world to me, to us and hopefully we can keep going, celebrate tonight and just have fun.”

The 20th-ranked Fernandez, who hails from Laval, Que., broke Paolini’s serve in the final game to seal the victory in one hour 39 minutes.

She collected all five of her matches this week, helping Canada advance to the final, prevailing 7-5, 7-6 (3) with doubles partner Gabriela Dabrowski over Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in Saturday’s semifinals.

“I don’t know what to say,” Canada’s captain Heidi El Tabakh said. “I’m so proud of this team, these girls are incredible.

“It’s a dream come true.”

Last November, Felix Auger-Aliassime led Canada to its first Davis Cup title in the long history of the premier team event in men’s tennis.

Canada’s team will take $2.4 million US in prize money for Sunday’s victory, a record for the women’s team event formerly known as the Fed Cup. As the 13th nation to win, team members also receive Billie Blue jackets.

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