Seville | Italy and Canada score impressive wins at BJK Cup

Day 2 of the Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Finals in Seville saw Italy edging a closely-fought battle to upset France, winning 2-1 in a tie in which all 3 matches went to a deciding set, before Canada defeated hosts Spain to move within one victory of a place in the semi-finals for just the second time in their history.

Before this match, Leylah [Fernandez] came up to me and told me some stuff, just from her experience playing [BJK Cup]. She told me ‘just enjoy the moment, play your game and just have fun’. I took that in with me in this match. All the girls... I'm definitely learning a lot from them. They are obviously more experienced than I am, but it's such a great team to be around. They are all super nice. Marina Stakusic

Team Italy made its winning start to their BJK Cup campaign with an impressive 2-1 victory over France, with Martina Trevisan and Jasmine Paolini scoring singles wins to give them an unassailable lead in their Group D tie, before France managed to get a consolation victory in the doubles as Caroline Garcia teamed up with Kristina Mladenovic to edge out Trevisan & Elisabetta Cocciaretto in a deciding match tiebreak.

Trevisan recovered from a slow start to beat the experienced Alizé Cornet, 2-6 6-2 6-2, in the opening rubber after 2 hours and 12 minutes.

“I’m very happy to bring the point to my team, when I play for Italy, for my country, it’s always special,” she said. “I tried to manage the tension and go ball by ball.”

Cornet said she was unwell in the second set: “I was feeling pretty good before and during the first set,” she explained. “Then my form dropped. I started to feel a bit dizzy, and I think she changed her strategy and she played much smarter from the second set.”


Jasmine Paolini sealed Italy's win over France by edging Caroline Garcia in the second rubber at Estadio de La Cartuja on Day 2

© Matt McNulty/Getty Images for ITF

The 27-year-old Paolini then battled back from 2-4 down in the deciding set to beat Garcia, 7-6(6) 5-7 6-4, in a match lasting 2 hours and 39 minutes.

Paolini and World No 20 Garcia played out a consistent first set featuring just a single break point, which the Italian saved before she eventually took the breaker.

In the second, Garcia blew 2 set points at 5-4 up but immediately recovered Paolini’s break, and made no mistake at the third time of asking, forcing a decider, but it was the Italian who emerged victorious in a tense finale, winning the final 4 games to clinch the win.

No 30-ranked Paolini had not taken a set from Garcia in 4 meetings prior to October, but now has pulled off narrow escapes against the Frenchwoman twice within the past 5 weeks. In last month’s Zhengzhou quarterfinals, Paolini saved 4 match points en route to a 3-6 6-4 7-5 victory.

Paolini’s battling spirit saw her win the first set from 5-2 down in the tiebreak, saving a set point along the way, and then twice erase a break deficit in the decider to notch her fourth Top 20 win of the season.

France came from behind to win the doubles match with Garcia & Mladenovic defeating Elisabetta Cocciaretto & Trevisan, 5-7 6-2 [10-6].

Italy have now beaten France 5 times in their last 7 meetings in the flagship women’s team competition.

“Tomorrow will be another day and will be very tough day, for sure,” Italian captain Tathiana Garbin told reporters. “I think right now everything is still open.

“I think all my players, even Elisabetta [Cocciaretto], she’s so young, but she’s a leader. They are all leaders, but they don’t clash against each other, you know. They push themselves. It’s so beautiful to stay with them, because they are singing in the night, and the next day they pushing so good on court.

“So I have to be proud of them, Garbin added.

Italy will seek to keep their momentum going on Thursday when they take on Germany in Group D, which be wrapped up on Friday when Germany faces France.


18-year old Marina Stakusic made a winning debut for Team Canada by beating 65th-ranked Rebeka Masarova from Spain on Wednesday

© Fran Santiago/Getty Images for ITF

Later on Wednesday, home fans inside the Estadio de la Cartuja were hoping to cheer on Spain to victory against Canada, but things did not go to plan in the opening tie of Group C.

Canada’s World No 258 Marina Stakusic proved far too good for 65th-ranked Rebeka Masarova in a 6-3 6-1 win, while former US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez beat Sara Sorribes Tormo, 7-6(8) 7-6(7), in a scrap that lasted almost 3 hours.

The hoped-for appearance of former World No 2 Paula Badosa after a long lay-off with a back injury, did not materialise, although she is included in the Spanish squad and leads the team.

Teenager Stakusic got the biggest win of her career to help Canada defeat the hosts 3-0 in Group C, giving her country their first point of their campaign.

“Before this match, Leylah [Fernandez] came up to me and told me some stuff, just from her experience playing [BJK Cup],” Stakusic said. “She told me ‘just enjoy the moment, play your game and just have fun’. I took that in with me in this match.

“All the girls… I’m definitely learning a lot from them. They are obviously more experienced than I am, but it’s such a great team to be around. They are all super nice.”

The 18-year old’s previous career-best victory had been against World No 152 Jaimee Fourlis in 2022, and this was her first win over a Top 100 opponent.

“This is such a special feeling and makes me believe that I belong here,” Stakusic said. “It is also super special to win in front of all the Canadians, who I have worked with for a long time.

“What a feeling! It is the most meaningful win for me so far, and it will give me so much confidence going forward.”


Leylah Fernandez celebrates beating Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets in Group C to give Canada an unassailable lead over the hosts

© Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images

Fernandez then gave Canada its second point by edging Sorribes Tormo in 2 tight tiebreak sets, in an gritty effort against the World No 33.

The Spaniard served for both sets but Fernandez clawed her way back, and, while facing the prospect of the match going to a third, the Canadian gamely saved 2 set points in the second-set breaker before handing Canada its first win over Spain since 1972.

“Always said the biggest pride of any athlete is to represent their country,” said Fernandez, who has had a strong end to the season, allowing her to climb in the WTA Rankings, and she will start 2024 from a more comfortable position.

The 21-year-old spent a significant part of the year outside the Top 60, and often had to go through qualifying to enter the main draw at some of the most important tournaments.

Fernandez’s strong year-end finish, including reaching the quarter-finals of the WTA 1000 Guadalajara Open, making it to the semi-finals at the Nanchang Open, and capturing the title in Hong Kong, all within the last 6 weeks, has propelled her to finish the year as the World No 35.

She leads the Canadian team in the absence of former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

“I’m always excited to be part of this Canada team,” Leylah said in her press conference. “We have a great support staff, and the girls here are super amazing. They always bring out the best in me, and I have a lot of pride when I play for my country.”

“My dad, who is a football player, always said the biggest pride of any athlete is to represent their country and to have the country’s name on their back.

“Every time I step on court, I always just want to fight, be the best version of myself and give Team Canada a chance to win,” she added.

The Canadian team also includes former World No 5 Eugenie Bouchard, Rebecca Marino, and Gabriela Dabrowski, as well as Marina Stakusic.

They are in the same group as Spain, led by Badosa and Sorribes Tormo, as well as the team from Poland, who do not have the World No 1 Iga Swiatek but features top singles players Magda Linette and Magdalena Frech.

In the doubles, Bouchard & Dabrowski beat Sorribes Tormo & Masarova, 6-2 7-5, to give Canada a clean sweep tie over Spain.

Canada will face Poland on Thursday.


France's Caroline Garcia (TOP), playing with Kristina Mladenovic, clawed a rubber back by defeating Italy's Elisabetta Cocciaretto & Martina Trevisan in the doubles

© Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images

The 12 teams in the BJK Cup Finals are competing in 4 round-robin groups, and the winners will advance to the semi-finals on Saturday, with the trophy match on Sunday on Seville.

Thursday’s action will also see reigning champions Switzerland attempt to stay alive in Group A as they take on the United States, while last year’s finalists Australia will also be looking for their first win when they take on Kazakhstan in Group B.

 

Day 2 Results

Group D – Italy defeated France 2-1

  • Martina Trevisan (ITA) d. Alize Cornet (FRA) 2-6 6-2 6-2
  • Jasmine Paolini (ITA) d. Caroline Garcia (FRA) 7-6(6) 5-7 6-4
  • Caroline Garcia & Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. Elisabetta Cocciaretto & Martina Trevisan (ITA) 5-7 6-2 [10-6]

Group C – Canada defeated Spain 3-0

  • Marina Stakusic (CAN) d. Rebeka Masarova (ESP) 6-3 6-1
  • Leylah Fernandez (CAN) d. Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) 7-6(8) 7-6(7)
  • Eugenie Bouchard & Gabriela Dabrowski d. Rebeka Masarova & Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3 7-5

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