The telltale sign was the sound the ball made as it hit his racket.
“Each time the contact occurred in the middle of the fray, and that was the case with Marina when she was eight years old,” Thomson said. She hit the ball solidly every time. »
Stakusic, now 18, put in an exceptional performance in the final of the Billie Jean King Cup this week. To everyone’s surprise, she was selected for the singles and scored an unexpected victory 6-3, 6-1 over Spain’s Rebeka Masarova in her very first match on Wednesday.
“I think she behaved very well when she was under pressure and her opponent signaled that she was coming back into the game,” analyzed Sylvain Bruneau, high performance consultant at Tennis Canada. “I think she did a great job of making sure that didn’t happen.” »
Originally from Mississauga, Stakusic developed his skills at a young age at the Eglinton Flats Winter Tennis Club. Thomson was the tennis director of this west Toronto club for more than two decades.
“Nothing bothered her,” Thomson said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.
“She never got angry on a tennis court. Tennis is such a mental game. You always have to keep a cool head. »
— Mike Thomson
“Marina is always calm on the tennis court – always. From the age of eight. »
“With full confidence”
Stakusic played like a seasoned player in front of a partisan crowd on Wednesday, showing no signs of nervousness on one of tennis’ biggest stages. Captain Heidi el Tabakh chose her over Rebecca Marino and Eugenie Bouchard, more experienced teammates.
“We knew she was full of confidence,” Bruneau said. She’s been doing really well lately. This is a factor to consider. We also thought that she was young and on the rise and that facing her would put a lot of pressure on her opponent’s shoulders, and that’s exactly what happened. »
On Thursday she started again and won a 4:6, 7:5, 6:3 win against Poland’s Magdalena Frech. Leylah Fernandez followed with another singles victory, securing Canada’s place in the final four of the 12-team competition.
The Canadians were off on Friday before the semi-finals on Saturday. The final is scheduled to take place on Sunday.
Stakusic has won three ITF tournaments this year since returning from an injury that sidelined her for six months. She is not afraid to be fierce on the court and use her versatile game to her advantage.
“She has many elements in her arsenal,” Bruneau explained from Seville. She has an excellent backhand cut, she is able to give angles to her shots, she is able to change the rhythm of the ball, which is very interesting in combination with her very heavy groundstrokes.
“She actually loves going to the net. She manages to score often, so she’s really good at the net. When you put it all together, she has a very complete game. »
Once the Billie Jean King Cup final is over, Bruneau said he will compete in a Challenger tournament in Portugal with Stakusic. He added that after a short break, she will split her off-season training between Montreal and Florida.
“I think she will be a very accomplished player. There is no doubt. »
— Sylvain Bruneau
Stakusic is ranked 258th in the world and has yet to play a main draw match on the WTA Tour. She reached the final round of qualifying for the National Bank Open in Montreal last summer.
Stakusic was named ITF Player of the Month for September.
“It’s a tennis coach’s dream to see someone like her hit a tennis ball,” Thomson said. “You can’t teach a person like that much. »
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