Photo: Srdjan Stevanovic

Ten years after playing in her first Billie Jean King Cup tie, Rebecca Marino – the highest-ranked singles player for Team Canada presented by Sobeys – will step onto the courts at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic on Monday with one thing on her mind: winning. 

The 30-year-old from Vancouver goes into the Finals high in confidence and, despite the label of underdogs heading into this year’s event, Marino believes that this team is capable of surprising the tennis world.

“You never know what happens when you battle it out on the court,” Marino said. “We have indoor hard-courts here which suits Team Canada’s game really well. We have great players. I really think that if we go in believing that we can win and that we belong here, anything can happen.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the Canadian team has produced an upset – most recently sweeping Serbia in their Play-Off tie earlier this year. Marino won her singles and doubles rubbers, which included an impressive 6-4, 7-6(6) win over the then-World No. 87 Nina Stojanovic.

The powerful Canadian built off of her big win in Kraljevo, Serbia and improved her WTA singles ranking considerably throughout the season. Since the tie in April, Marino won an ITF $25,000 event in Evansville, Indiana, reached the round of 16 at the National Bank Open presented by Rogers, and qualified for the main draw of the US Open in September.

“I would say that this year has almost been a building year,” Marino stated about her 2021 season. “I started with a 350-something ranking, and now I’m in the top 150. It’s a lot of the process of coming back. Knowing I belong there, just keeping my head down, working hard and trusting the process.”

Rebecca Marino and Team Canada at practice on Thursday, October 28 in Prague. (Photo: Martin Sidorjak)

Marino’s 2021 form is proof that hard work pays off. However, the season isn’t over and Team Canada’s top singles player is eager to get going in Prague.

“This is what the whole year has been leading up to, and this is an event I’m always really looking forward to playing,” Marino said. “I feel mentally ready, physically ready. I had a solid year of tennis – so tennis-wise, I’m also feeling ready.

“We’re lucky that all the Canadians on tour are really close and friendly, so regardless of who’s on the team, we always have really good chemistry and teamwork. So, coming into the Finals here with this group of girls – that’s Francoise (Abanda), Carol (Zhao) Gaby (Dabrowski), and myself – we’re all really excited and proud to be here.”

When Marino takes to the stage on Monday, she will be representing her country at the Billie Jean King Cup for the sixth time in her career. She hopes that Team Canada’s presence and performance at the Finals will inspire increased participation in the sport back home.   

 “We’re showcasing our top talent in women’s tennis for Canada and the International standard,” Marino explained. “The more we can have the platform to demonstrate the athleticism in tennis and inspire youth to pick up the sport, the better. I hope a lot of youngsters are picking up racquets when they see us on TV.”

Tune in to Sportsnet and TVA Sports on Monday, November 1 at 5:30 a.m. to watch Canada take on France in their first round-robin tie.