Canada 2-0 Italy: Canada crowned 2023 World Champions12/11/2023 12:40
Canada have made history by winning their first Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge title after defeating Italy in the 2023 final in Seville
By Ross McLean
Canada have broken new ground by being crowned world champions for the first time in Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge history after defeating Italy in the 2023 final in Seville.
A 6-2 6-3 victory for the irrepressible Leylah Fernandez over Jasmine Paolini confirmed Canada’s newfound status and saw them follow in the footsteps of their Davis Cup team, which topped the men’s World Cup of Tennis podium for the first time last year.
Fernandez’s victory sparked scenes of jubilation and fired Canada into an unassailable lead following the earlier exploits of the unflappable Marina Stakusic, who overcame Martina Trevisan 7-5 6-3 in the opening singles.
The names of Fernandez, Stakusic, Rebecca Marino, Eugenie Bouchard and Gabriela Dabrowski will now reverberate around the world and be forever woven in the fabric of Canadian tennis following this monumental achievement.
Canada, captained by Heidi El Tabakh, are the 13th nation to win Billie Jean King Cup and the second new champion in as many years following Switzerland’s triumph in Glasgow 12 months ago.
As well as lifting the iconic Billie Jean King Cup trophy, Canada were also presented with Billie Blue jackets, designed by the competition’s apparel partner Tory Burch, and received a record $2.4m in prize money – equivalent to that on offer in Davis Cup.
“I’m extremely happy – ecstatic,” Fernandez told billiejeankingcup.com. “It’s the first time that Canada has ever won Billie Jean King Cup and I can finally say, ‘we’re world champions’, and we deserve it.
“We have worked really hard these past years and, as I have said before, every year we just keep improving and it’s showing on the tennis court. It is showing in competitions and now it has shown on the biggest stage in the world.”
Fernandez has been in imperious form this week and proven herself to be an inspirational figure for Canada, winning all five matches she has contested across singles and doubles and was there when her nation needed her most.
Stakusic has also announced herself on the world stage and has chalked up three career-best victories, with her latest coming against world No. 43 Trevisan to propel Canada to the brink of glory. Her only defeat was to world No. 10 Barbora Krejcikova – no shame there.
“It’s definitely not what I imagined would happen coming here,” said world No. 258 Stakusic.
“As the week went on and just training with these girls all of the time, I knew that we were gaining confidence and we really believed in ourselves. It ended up paying off in the end. It’s been an incredible week and I’m super happy I got to spend it with these women.”
El Tabakh, the first female captain to lead their team to victory in Billie Jean King Cup since Kathy Rinaldi in 2017, was unequivocal in her praise for Stakusic and believes the 18-year-old has an extremely properous future.
“It’s fair to say that a champion is born this week,” said El Tabakh. “She exceeded everyone’s expectations. But with that said, I’m very, very, very proud of her and the way she showed up for the team.
“I’m so incredibly proud and it’s been a pleasure sharing the court with them all week. Everyone who is here currently has been a huge asset to the Canadian team throughout the years. We wouldn’t be here without every single one of them.”
Dabrowski was not needed in the final given the prowess of Stakusic and Fernandez, but she played a huge role during Saturday’s crunch semi-final victory against 11-time champions Czechia which went to a decisive doubles.
Dabrowski, who made her Billie Jean King Cup debut against Peru in February 2013 when the title of world champions was but a distant dream, reflected on a staggering journey and a narrative that will be recited for many years to come.
“It means so much,” she said. “It’s an incredibly special moment to share with everyone sitting here. Everyone has put in blood, sweat and tears – literally. It feels like on the one hand it is a huge relief, but in the most positive way.
“It’s like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. I feel like we have been a top team for many years now, but to be able to put that into action is incredible. Having this format has made it even more possible for us to get this title – I love the World Cup of Tennis.”
Four-time champions Italy, meanwhile, fell short of a first Billie Jean King Cup title in 10 years – since their 2013 triumph over Russia in Bari. However, it has been a hugely productive week for a fun-loving team which has illuminated the Finals.
Italy would also appear to be on an upward trajectory, with all five players in their team – Paolini, Trevisan, Lucia Bronzetti, Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Lucrezia Stefanini – achieving a career-high singles ranking in 2023.
Captain Tathiana Garbin, while clearly emotional in her post-tie press conference, believes Italy have the aptitude and ability to recover from the setback of falling short with silverware within reach and go on to scale even greater heights.
“When you fall down, it means you have something to pick yourself up for,” she said. “You have to look around and find what is your treasure. I think we have learned a lot this week.
“My team is getting so close as a family – we are really close to each other. We know when somebody falls, there are a group of people that will take you up. That is what it is like, we lost today but we are together.
“We have learned this week how to stand up and stand up together. That is the lesson and the most important lesson we have learned.”