KRALJEVO, Serbia — Leylah Annie Fernandez clinched a Billie Jean King Cup playoff tie victory for Canada with a dramatic win on Saturday.
The 18-year-old from Laval, Que., beat Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to give Canada an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five tie.
Fernandez, ranked 72nd in the world, was about to have her fifth match-point opportunity against the 87th-ranked Stojanovic when some of the lights went out at the indoor hard-court facility.
Stojanovic, with serve and trailing 5-4 in the third set, came back from the 13-minute delay to win a long point. But Fernandez won the next two points to finally put an end to a match that lasted two hours 46 minutes.
“I think it was just trying to trick myself that it wasn’t match point for me, that I wasn’t up in the third set,” Fernandez said of her attitude after the lights went off. “It was more, let’s earn this point, thinking it’s 0-0 or that I’m down in a set trying to get back into it. Just fight for every point.”
Canada won the tie without its top singles player, Bianca Andreescu, who has a foot injury. Gabriela Dabrowski, Canada’s top doubles player, also didn’t play.
“Honestly very proud of myself that I was able to push through the nerves of this match,” Fernandez said. “I knew it was not going to be easy.”
A doubles match was to be held later Saturday.
It was the second long match in a row for Fernandez, who needed two hours 34 minutes to beat Olga Danilovic 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 in the Friday’s opener.
The 230th-ranked Rebecca Marino, from Vancouver, then gave Canada a commanding 2-0 lead with a 6-4, 7-6 (6) upset against Stojanovic.
The top-ranked Serbian, Stojanovic made 63 unforced errors against Fernandez. The Canadian had 45 unforced errors.
Fernandez is in the midst of a promising year, having won her first career WTA Tour title last month in Mexico.
“It’s definitely a big confidence boost. It helps a lot,” she said. “It wasn’t an easy start of the year for me but I kept training, kept improving and I was happy to get my first title a few weeks ago in Mexico. And here to be playing for my country, getting those emotions, the support from my teammates … from our country was tremendously helpful. Just to win this weekend was great for my upcoming season.”
Canada advances to next year’s qualifiers, where a win would secure a berth in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.
The Billie Jean King Cup is the new name for the Fed Cup — the top international team tournament in women’s tennis.