Fernandez and Marino lead Canada to a 2-0 lead in Billie Jean King Cup qualifying

On Friday, Rebecca Marino, from Vancouver, wanted to put on a show for her loved ones. As Canada’s number one.

On Friday, Rebecca Marino, from Vancouver, wanted to put on a show for her loved ones.

As Canada’s No. 2 seed in the Billie Jean Cup qualifier, Marino was up against Latvia’s top player in the series, Daniela Vismane – and she was doing it in front of a home crowd.

“I feel like I gave everyone their money’s worth with a three-set match today,” she said with a smile after rallying for a gutsy 6- 3, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

“Obviously some nerves at the start, just trying to settle into the game,” she said. “And as it continued, I feel like I found my rhythm. I’m really proud of the fight and the effort I put in today.”

The win gave Canada a convincing 2-0 lead after Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., beat Darja Seminstaja 6-1, 6-2 to open the series on indoor hard court earlier in the day.

The winner of the qualifier will advance to the final in November.

Marino admitted that she didn’t watch Fernandez’s game much because she didn’t want to be overwhelmed by the crowd inside the Pacific Coliseum.

“It meant a lot to me to have all of my closest friends, all of my family in the stands. I can literally see them, see their faces. I want to do well for them,” she said. “I’m really proud of today’s performance.”

Marino, ranked 111th in the world, used a blistering serve to beat Vismane, firing 17 aces throughout the game and sending a ball hovering over the net at 200mph.

“Serving was the only thing I could really count on today,” she said. “Every time I stepped in to serve on my service game, I felt really confident, ready to go.”

Marino struggled with unforced errors at times, shooting 55 over the two-hour, seven-minute game.

She was repeatedly forced to play from behind in the second, but the crowd stayed behind the Canadian, with the loudest cheers erupting when she sent a return straight down the line at 6-6.

A series of errors cost him in the tiebreak and Vismane took the set when Marino sent a return well beyond the service line.

The 31-year-old Canadian won three of six break points during the match, including one midway through the third set that gave her a 4-2 lead.

She won with another ace.

Vismane said she knew Marino would come in with a massive serve but refused to back down.

“I’m still a fighter on the pitch,” she said. “And especially now, when you play for your country, you don’t play for yourself, you play for your whole country. So the level of fighting is much higher. I just fight at every point and I pushed myself to the last point.”

Fernandez, ranked 21st in the world, was dominant from the start on Friday, firing just one ace and winning seven of nine break points.

“I think I handled my emotions pretty well,” she said. “I tried to be offensive, I tried to do what I trained during the week and what my style of play is. So I’m happy that I was able to execute it as best I could.

The 53-minute game also saw the 19-year-old Fernandez make a few errors including four double faults and concede all three break points she faced.

She took an early lead, not allowing world No. 389 Semenistaja a single point in the opener.

The Latvian broke her Canadian counterpart’s serve in the third game, but Fernandez rallied and didn’t lose another game in the set.

The crowd at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver gasped as Fernandez crossed the field to dig a return and sent a backhand shot across the field. Cheers echoed around the stadium as the ball landed just inside the line to give Canada the game and a 5-1 lead.

Fernandez started to falter midway through the second set.

Trailing 4-1, they double faulted and then struggled with their returns, failing to score a point as Semenistaja took their third break of the match.

Fernandez said she just tried to forget her mistakes as quickly as possible.

“I know mistakes will happen, I know she’ll hit her winners, I know I’ll make unforced errors,” she said. “I just have to stay calm and find solutions as quickly as possible. And I’m glad those solutions worked at the right time, at the right time.”

The Canadian took a break in the next game when Semenistaja sent a return into the net and then put a long ball on the next point, giving Fernandez a 5-2 lead.

Last year’s US Open runner-up, Fernandez closed the match without allowing his opponent a single point in the final match.

The series will continue on Saturday with Fernandez taking on Vismane, followed by a clash between Semenistaja and Mariano. The action will conclude with Canadians Dabrowski and Carol Zhao taking on La Liga Dekmeijere and Diana Marcinkevica in doubles.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 15, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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