KRALJEVO, April 16, 2021 (Tennis Canada Press Release)
The first day of the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Play-Offs came to a close on Friday with Canada leading Serbia 2-0 following the first two singles matches of the tie at the Sport Hall Ibar in Kraljevo, Serbia.
Both matches were played at a high intensity and there was some terrific tennis on display. The first match of the day, between Leylah Fernandez (Laval, QC) and Olga Danilovic, finished 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in favour of Canada. Both left-handers, Fernandez and Danilovic were evenly matched throughout the encounter but the Canadian’s ruthlessness rang true as she converted six of her seven break point opportunities, while the Serbian converted just five of her 14. The end of the third and deciding set was particularly dramatic as Fernandez, up 5-3 and serving for the match, dropped her next service game only to break back immediately to seal victory.
“She [Danilovic] played an incredible match,” commented Fernandez in her post-match press conference. “I didn’t. I made one too many mistakes, giving her back the points that I won and she took advantage of those. But I was happy I was able to fight through it and get the win for my team.”
Following Fernandez’s victory, Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC) and Serbia No. 1 Nina Stojanovic took to the court. The Canadian, despite being ranked 143 places below her opponent on the WTA Tour, showed tremendous poise to fight her way to a well-earned 6-4, 7-6(6) victory. Marino put her powerful serve to good use, winning ten aces and keeping her first serve percentage high at 69%. That didn’t stop the second set from producing six consecutive breaks of serve, however, in what was a thrilling battle. In the end, Marino’s willpower proved crucial to her victory, especially in the second set tiebreak, in which she dug deep to clinch what could be a vital win for Canada.
HUGE return from 🇨🇦 @beccamarino90 as she takes the first set on a break of the 🇷🇸 Stojanovic serve.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) April 16, 2021
“It was frustrating and exciting at the same time to be constantly breaking serve but also getting broken,” Marino said. “But you have to hang in tough with sets like that. She’s a great player and I knew that if I could just keep trying and doing my best no matter what, I might be able to squeak it through and that’s what happened.”
“It was definitely a good day, two very tough matches,” Team Canada Captain Heidi El Tabakh commented. “It wasn’t easy out there but I’m glad we were able to get the wins. But it’s not over yet. Leylah, I feel, struggled with some nerves in the beginning today. To be fair, I think Olga played some of her best tennis. She came out firing, put the pressure on Leylah and she served really well. Leylah did a good job of hanging in there and not letting it get to her and she fought her way out of it. It’s tough playing the first match as the number one, nerves can get to you, it’s completely normal but she’s tough and she was able to pull it off.
“I feel like Rebecca was inspired by that performance and came out playing really well. She played super aggressive and served well and went for it from start to finish. That was her game plan, so I’m very happy with the way she played.”
The two teams will take to the court again tomorrow at 11 a.m. local time, when Fernandez will face Stojanovic before Marino takes on Danilovic. Those matches will be followed by the doubles rubber as Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) and Carol Zhao (Toronto, ON) of Canada come up against Serbian duo Danilovic and Aleksandra Krunic.
All matches from the tie are being broadcast live in Canada in English on Sportsnet One and in French on TVA Sports.