Leylah Fernandez honoured for Billie Jean King Cup heroics

The award is for players who have represented their country with distinction, demonstrated exceptional courage on the court and shown outstanding commitment to their team.

Canada's Leylah Fernandez hits a return against Greece's Maria Sakkari during their Grampians Trophy women's singles tennis match in Melbourne on February 5, 2021.

A pair of comeback wins against Serbia have earned  18-year-old Leylah Annie Fernandez the 2021 Billie Jean King Cup Play-Offs Heart Award.

Playing as Canada’s No. 1 singles player in Kraljevo last month, Fernandez produced two strong performances to overcome Olga Danilovic 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 on Day 1 and Nina Stojanovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Day 2. 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. The win moved Canada into the 2022 qualifying round for the women’s team event.

The International Tennis Federation selected Fernandez over fellow 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, tennis legend 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 — was decided by a public vote.

Fernandez — who was also a nominee in 2020 — received a cheque for $3,000 to donate to a charity of her choice, and she chose Table de sécurité alimentaire de Villeray food bank.

“I am honoured and so thrilled to win this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award,” said 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!”

Fernandez is back in Serbia this week for the WTA 250 event in Belgrade and she defeated Polona Hercog of Slovenia 7-5, 6-1  in the first round Monday.

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