04/17/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/17/2021 07:15
Canada took an unassailable 3-0 lead against hosts Serbia in their Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Play-off after Leylah Annie Fernandez beat Nina Stojanovic 3-6 6-3 6-4 in Saturday's reverse singles to send them into next season's Qualifiers.
The 18-year old Fernandez produced a second magnificent performance over the two days; after beating Olga Danilovic in Friday's opening rubber, she took her sixth match point against Stojanovic following a brief floodlight failure in Kraljevo's Ibar Sports Hall.
Canada ran out worthy winners as Fernandez and Rebecca Marino, who beat Stojanovic in straight sets on Friday, delivered their best shots in the tie's pivotal moments.
Fernandez, who won her maiden WTA title in Monterrey last month, was delighted after her monumental effort propelled Canada into the competition's upper tiers.
'I have no idea how I feel but it was a team effort,' she said in a courtside interview with a big smile looming beneath her face mask.
'The lights went out and I thought, like, 'this a perfect time for Nina to hit three aces.' But I tried to stay positive and this is one to remember.'
'I love the pressure and the atmosphere in the Billie Jean King Cup but hopefully next time it's going to be a little bit easier. I tried to stay tough mentally and take my opportunities when they came. The name Billie Jean King Cup represents a lot and it brings the best in me because I am just proud to play for my country.'
Team Captain Heidi El Tabakh added: 'It was a great battle, the Serbians fought hard and they didn't make it easy for us. Leylah's fighting spirit is incredible and today she found a way to win. We're like one big family and the players feel the staff's support.'
Stojanovic put in a much-improved performance after a tough loss to Marino and broke her opponent's serve twice in the opening set.
Fernandez looked somewhat bereft of energy after clinching Friday's slugfest against Danilovic, and Stojanovic took full advantage as her big serve and stinging baseline shots kept the Canadian on the back foot.
Having surged ahead, the Serbian held serve in the opening game of the second set with a pair of delightful volleys and then broke again to take a 3-1 lead thanks to a sublime forehand winner down the line.
With her back against the wall, Fernandez came out swinging and won the next five games as she threw caution to the wind, pummeling groundstrokes with laser-beam precision which clearly rattled Stojanovic.
Having taken a medical time out for a foot issue, Stojanovic broke serve at the start of the third set but Fernandez hit straight back to even the score.
The resilient Canadian saved a break point in the set's seventh game to nose 4-3 ahead and then converted her second break point on Stojanovic's serve with a superb backhand crosscourt winner shortly afterwards.
The battling Stojanovic stayed in the match as Fernandez dropped her serve with a double-fault when serving for the match, but there was to be no great escape for Serbia's No.1, even as she fought valiantly to save five match points.
A partial floodlight failure forced a 10-minute delay prior to the fifth, but after Stojanovic had briefly extended the match, it was lights out for Serbia as Fernandez drilled in yet another winner before the home player sent her final shot beyond the baseline.