Photo: Srdjan Stevanovic
Finals to take place November 1–6 at Prague’s O2 Arena in the Czech Republic
Tennis Canada announced on Monday that Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC), Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC), Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON) and Françoise Abanda (Montreal, QC) will represent Canada at the Billie Jean King Cup presented BNP Paribas Finals this November. The Finals will be played on the hard courts of the Prague’s O2 Arena in the Czech Republic.
Canada, which was the highest-ranked winning nation at the Play-Offs held in April, replaced former host nation Hungary in Group A of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals. They will start the competition by facing representatives from France (No. 1) and the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF).
Leylah Annie Fernandez (No. 28), who recently reached the US Open final at only 19 years old and won her first WTA title this year in Monterrey, will be leading the team in what will be her fourth appearance in the Billie Jean King Cup. Back in April, her two singles victories were crucial in securing a 4-0 win over Serbia and propelling Canada in the rankings. Because of her performances, she was also announced as the winner of the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs Heart Award, an honour given to players who have represented their country with distinction, demonstrated exceptional courage on the court and shown outstanding commitment to their team.
Rebecca Marino (No. 157) will also be participating in her second Billie Jean King Cup event of the year, having been selected to represent Canada in April’s matchup against Serbia. Marino, who was ranked No. 311 at the beginning of the year, has been performing exceptionally as of late. She reached the round of 16 at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Montreal, having never previously won a main draw match at the event, and qualified for the US Open main draw for the third time in her career.
The team will also be able to count on doubles specialist Gabriela Dabrowski. Playing in her 14th Billie Jean King Cup event, Dabrowski is coming off another great year on the WTA Tour. Now No. 7 in the doubles rankings, which equals her career high obtained in March 2018, she notably won the doubles title at the 2021 National Bank Open presented by Rogers with her partner Luisa Stefani. She has also been a finalist in three other tournaments this year, two of them having taken place in August (San Jose and Cincinnati). She holds a 7-6 record in doubles when playing for Canada.
Joining the team for the first time since February 2019 will be Billie Jean King Cup veteran Françoise Abanda. Having played in six ties throughout her career, Abanda holds a 6-5 record with her six wins coming in singles. After taking a short break in 2021, she returned on court at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers in Montreal and is making positive strides as she got her first WTA main draw victory since September 2018 (Quebec City) in the first round of the Chicago Open.
Top-ranked Canadian Bianca Andreescu (No. 21) will not play in Prague. She commented: “After careful consideration and consulting with my team, I have taken the decision to not play in the Billie Jean Cup Finals in November. I will attempt to finish these last few tournaments of the year in strong fashion, and then will focus on having a very good off-season training block in order to be fully prepared for the 2022 season. I will be playing the Billie Jean King Cup event next year and wish Team Canada all the best for this year’s edition!”
Sylvain Bruneau to act as Interim Captain for Billie Jean King Cup Final
Due to personal reasons, Team Canada Billie Jean King Cup captain Heidi El Tabakh is unable to attend the Finals. Instead, former captain and Tennis Canada’s current Head of women’s transition and pro tennis, Sylvain Bruneau, will lead the team in Prague. El Tabakh will resume her role as team captain for all future ties.
“I’m really disappointed not to be going to Prague with the team for what will be an incredible experience and competition at the inaugural Billie Jean King Cup Finals in its new format,” said El Tabakh. “I am extremely grateful to the team and to Tennis Canada for being so understanding of my decision as my fiancé and I plan for our wedding in November, which has already been previously delayed due to COVID-19. I have every confidence that the team, under Sylvain’s guidance, will perform to the best of their abilities at the Finals and has the potential to go all the way.”
“Like every final, all the teams that are participating are relying on excellent players who will require us to give our best in each match, from start to finish,” Bruneau commented. “However, we also have an extremely talented team with Leylah [Fernandez], Rebecca [Marino], Gaby [Dabrowski] and Francoise [Abanda]. We are confident that we can win many matches and do very well at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague.”
Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas 2021 Finals—event information
Dates: Monday 1 to Saturday 6 November 2021
Venue: O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
Surface: Indoor hard courts
No. of match courts: 2
No. of nations: 12
Event format: 4 Groups (A, B, C, D*) of 3 nations. Group winners progress to semi-finals and final.
The 2021 world champion and runner-up earn automatic qualification for the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas 2022 Finals. The remaining 10 nations will compete in the 2022 Qualifiers along with the winning nations of the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas 2021 Play-Offs:
* Group A: France (1), Russian Tennis Federation (RTF), Canada
Group B: Australia (2), Belarus, Belgium
Group C: USA (3), Spain, Slovakia
Group D: Czech Republic (4), Germany, Switzerland
Czech Republic has hosted previous editions of the competition at the O2 Arena in the last decade, with the national Czech Republic team winning the 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018 Finals on home soil.