Photo: Srdjan Stevanovic

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced today that Canadian Leylah Fernandez has won the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs Heard Award for her performances in Team Canada’s 4-0 victory over Serbia in April. Fernandez’s two singles triumphs helped Canada secure its place in next year’s Qualifiers.

The 18-year-old was named alongside fellow Play-Offs Heart Award nominees Katie Boulter of Great Britain, Magdalena French of Poland and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. The nominees were selected by a panel including ITF President David Haggerty, Cup Ambassador Billie Jean King, as well as former players and members of the media. The winner of the award – which honours players who have represented their country with distinction, demonstrated exceptional courage on the court and shown outstanding commitment to their team at the Billie Jean King Cup – was decided by a public vote.

“Congratulations to Leylah Fernandez for her great performance at the Billie Jean King Cup Play-offs in April and for being voted the recipient of the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award,” David Haggerty, ITF President and a member of the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award nomination panel said. “It’s extra special to be voted for by the fans and recognized for showing great courage and commitment to your team.”

Photo: Srdjan Stevanovic

As a result of being crowned the Play-Offs Heart Award winner, Fernandez – who was also a nominee in 2020 – received a cheque of $3,000 which she may donate to a charity of her choice. The Canadian has chosen to make her donation to Table de sécurité alimentaire de Villeray in Montreal, Quebec.

“I am honored and so thrilled to win this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award,” commented Fernandez. “Thank you so much to the fans who voted. It means the world to me to represent my country and be part of an incredible team. Congratulations to all of the nominees. After such a challenging year for all of us, it’s amazing to be given the opportunity to celebrate kindness and pay it forward. Thank you very much. Go Canada Go!”

Playing as Canada’s No. 1 singles player in Kraljevo last month, Fernandez produced two battling performances to overcome Olga Danilovic 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 on day one and Nina Stojanovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on day two. Rebecca Marino won the other singles rubber and paired with compatriot Carol Zhao in doubles to seal the 4-0 sweep for a Canadian team led by Captain Heidi El Tabakh.

“I am so happy and extremely proud of Leylah for winning the Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs Heart Award,” said El Tabakh. “It was well deserved following a spectacular performance in Serbia, which she worked so hard for. Leylah is a great fighter on the court, she always represents Canada with pride and is an incredible teammate for her fellow players. She is a very worthy winner of this award.”

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