MATCH REPORT | 2023 Billie Jean King Cup Finals as Leylah FERNANDEZ outshines Jasmine PAOLINI as Canada make history with first title

Leylah Fernandez defeated Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-3 in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, securing Canada's first-ever title.

Another flawless day for the Canadian team, dominating both matches to secure a 2-0 victory over Italy and clinch the title without the need for a doubles match.

In the first session, the tournament's standout performer, 18-year-old Marina Stakusic, ranked 261st globally, pulled off a series of impressive wins, including triumphs over Rebaka Masarova (65th) and Magdalena Frech (63rd). Today, she achieved the pinnacle of her career by defeating former French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan (42nd) 7-5, 6-3, giving Canada the initial point.

With that, the responsibility shifted to world No. 35 Leylah Fernandez, who led Canada throughout the week as the top singles player and occasionally participated in doubles. Fernandez played four singles matches and two doubles alongside Gabriela Dabrowski, emerging victorious in all encounters. Out of the 11 matches Canada played in the tournament, they secured eleven victories, only faltering in the duel between Stakusic and world No. 10 Barbora Krejcikova.

In the first set, Fernandez took an early lead, breaking in the first game and successfully defending her serve. However, Paolini responded by winning two consecutive games, leveling the match at 2-2. Nevertheless, it proved to be a mere illusion in a dominant set by Leylah, claiming the next four games in a row and securing the set 6-2 in 47 minutes of play.

Paolini showcased a commendable first serve percentage of 69%, significantly surpassing the 48% of the 2021 US Open finalist. Still, the Canadian was particularly effective when playing against the second serve, achieving a 53% success rate compared to the Italian's 25%.

With Leylah's advantage, Paolini struggled to penetrate the lefty's defense, visibly showing nervousness as she attempted shots near the lines, resulting in a total of 25 unforced errors in the set. While both initially held their serves, Fernandez secured the first break in the third game, a lengthy 16-point affair. In the seventh game, Fernandez secured another break to take a 5-2 lead, but couldn't close the set at that moment after Paolini broke back. The 21-year-old Canadian remained focused, and with her opponent's service, she earned her first match point, which she didn't squander, sealing the match 6-2, 6-3.

This marks Canada's inaugural title in the Billie Jean King Cup, achieving it in their maiden final. Their previous best performances were reaching the semifinals in 1988, along with quarterfinal appearances in 1964, 1967, and 1987.

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