With a Billie Jean King Cup team tennis title under her belt, Canadian teenager Marina Stakusic is aiming just as high for her singles career as she looks to make her mark on the WTA Tour.
“Hopefully in the next few years I’ll win WTA tournaments [and] Grand Slams,” she said Wednesday. “Those have always been my goals since I was a kid.”
Stakusic, a relative unknown just a few weeks ago, delivered a breakout performance at the 12-team competition in Seville, Spain.
The 18-year-old from Mississauga, was a surprise selection for singles duty and delivered three key victories, including a stunning upset of 43rd-ranked Martina Trevisan in the final. Teammate Leylah Fernandez went on to clinch the title over Italy at Estadio la Cartuja.
“It all happened really fast, but it’s been the most incredible end of season for me,” Stakusic said. “I’m so happy I was able to be a part of history. It’s something that is extremely cool and special.
“I’m excited to keep going and keep pushing.”
The more immediate goals for the world’s 265th-ranked women’s singles player are cracking the top 100, moving from the ITF circuit to the top-flight WTA Tour and qualifying for the French Open in May.
“It obviously gives me so much confidence in knowing where my game is at and playing against these top players,” Stakusic said on a conference call. “Just knowing what I have to improve on to get to the highest level.”
Displaying the poise of a veteran on one of the sport’s biggest stages, Stakusic opened with a straight-sets win over Rebeka Masarova of host Spain.
She followed with a three-set win over another top-100 opponent – Poland’s Magdalena Frech – before falling to Czechia’s Barbora Krejcikova.
“I did feel like that was another level of tennis,” Stakusic said. “I’m glad I was able to experience that to know where I have to get, where I want to get.”
Stakusic, who has yet to play in a WTA Tour main draw, missed the first six months of the season due to a torn patella tendon in her knee. She reached the final round of qualifying at the National Bank Open last summer and went on to win three ITF tournaments.
With Fernandez a top threat in singles and Gaby Dabrowski a doubles anchor, many tennis observers expected the more experienced Rebecca Marino or Eugenie Bouchard to get the other singles nod for Canada in the best-of-three ties.
Instead, captain Heidi el Tabakh turned to Stakusic, who learned of the assignment on the eve of competition. Stakusic admitted there were some early jitters but her confidence and visualization work paid off.
“When I got there, I felt like I’d been there already 100 times before,” she said.
During her formative years in the sport, Stakusic watched some of her teammates reach the sport’s highest level as teenagers or young adults.
Bouchard was 20 when she reached the Wimbledon final in 2014 and Fernandez was 19 when she reached the U.S. Open final in 2021.
Bianca Andreescu, who represented Canada last year but was hampered by injuries this year, was also 19 when she won the U.S. Open in 2019.
Stakusic is dreaming big but is aware the pursuit of excellence can take time.
“My end goal is to have a very long career, a very successful career, hopefully staying in the top for as long as I can,” said Stakusic, who turns 19 on Monday. “I definitely don’t want to rush anything. I’ll just see how it goes and see how my results pan out.”
Stakusic plans to take a break to rest a minor abdominal injury before tackling preseason training in Florida.
As for the past two weeks, she described them as “a little crazy.”
“It’s not something that I’m used to and a lot has come at once,” she said. “But it has been really cool. I’m excited for the future.”