Canada makes BJK Cup history, Djokovic sets yet another record, and more

Leylah Fernandez (center) celebrates with teammate Marina Stakusic (right) and team captain Heidi El Tabakh (left) after Canada won its first Billie Jean King Cup title. Matt McNulty/Getty Images for ITF

For the first time in the event's history, Canada is the Billie Jean King Cup champion. Led by the red-hot Leylah Fernandez and the previously unheralded 18-year-old Marina Stakusic, the Canadians claimed the title on Sunday with a 2-0 victory over Italy.

Fernandez, the 2021 US Open finalist, won all four of her singles matches -- including a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 victory over reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the semifinals against the Czech Republic -- and a doubles match. And Stakusic, who is currently ranked No. 261 and had never beaten a top-100 player before, recorded three singles wins, all over players ranked in double digits.

"This has been the best week of my life," Stakusic said, without hyperbole, Sunday during the trophy ceremony.

And if national pride and bragging rights weren't enough, the Canadian team collected a record-setting $2.4 million check -- the same amount that the men's champions at the upcoming Davis Cup will receive.

Fernandez, who was scheduled to play doubles alongside Gabriela Dabrowski if a third match was needed, clinched the victory on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Jasmine Paolini. Fernandez threw her racket in the air and ran over to celebrate with her jubilant teammates, who also included Eugenie Bouchard and Rebecca Marino, as soon as the match ended. The collective reaction really says it all.

"I'm extremely happy, ecstatic," Fernandez told reporters after the match. "You know, it's the first time that Canada has ever won the Billie Jean King Cup. I can finally say this: We're world champions, and we rightfully deserve it."

Since the Canadian men's team is the reigning Davis Cup champion -- for at least a few more days -- it's definitely a good time for tennis up North.

Here's what else you might have missed from around the tennis world last week:

Collins' emotional tribute

While the United States team did not advance out of group play at the Billie Jean King Cup, the event marked the final tournament for longtime captain Kathy Rinaldi. The players, event organizers and the USTA made sure to pay tribute to Rinaldi, who remains the head of women's tennis for the USTA, throughout the week, but it was Danielle Collins who perhaps provided the most meaningful and heartfelt farewell.

"If I had it my way, I'd bring back Kathy every tie and I would have her at every tournament and have her be my neighbor, my roommate, anything," Collins said. "We just have so much fun together. There's never a dull moment with Kathy.

"The way Kathy looks out for all of us as people. Life is not always easy, as athletes or as people in general. We go through ups and downs, and Kathy has been one of the consistent themes and consistent people in our lives. You know, I just love her to death."

Rinaldi will be succeeded in the role by former world No. 1 and three-time major champion Lindsay Davenport.

The Australian team also bid farewell to Alicia Molik, its captain for the past decade.

"Mol, you have created the best team, this team feels like a family to me. no matter the result, we always have the best time," wrote team member Daria Saville on Instagram. "I can't even imagine our next tie without you ... you will forever be a mother of this family."

When in Turin

The ATP Finals are officially underway in Turin, Italy, and while Novak Djokovic wasted no time in clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record-setting eighth time, the fun began before the competition even started.

In a video posted on social media by the ATP, players in both the singles and doubles draws were asked for their bold predictions for the event. While some players seem to have a questionable understanding of the word "bold," Djokovic gave perhaps the best response.

"If I don't want to be humble and be honest, I'm winning the tournament," Djokovic said. "If I want to be humble, I'm also winning the tournament."

He's won three major titles this year, as well as three other ATP titles, and is a six-time champion at the year-end event. Can you really argue with him here?

No one made a bold prediction that Jannik Sinner's most devoted fans would be in attendance -- but, sure enough, the lovable, root vegetable-dressed group known as "The Carota Boys" are on site cheering him on. The squad even had the chance to meet and hang out with Sinner during a practice Thursday.

But the cutest pre-tournament fan had to be Daniil Medvedev's 1-year-old daughter, Alisa. Medvedev's wife, Daria, filmed Alisa pushing a wagon in the arena and walking by a poster of her dad. Her reaction to seeing his picture is priceless.

End of an era

There have been some pretty surprising breakups in 2023 -- but nothing could have prepared us for the just-announced split between reigning Australian Open doubles champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.

Few have achieved the success that this partnership has found in recent years. Together, Krejcikova and Siniakova have won seven major titles, as well as Olympic gold and the WTA Finals, and been joint world No. 1s. But on Sunday, Czech media reported the two would not be playing together during the 2024 season -- something that seemed particularly noteworthy in an Olympic year as the defending champions.

"I wanted a little bit of change," Siniakova said, according to Tenisovysvet.cz. "I think a break could do us good. I don't rule out we may play together again and maybe we'll be even stronger."

Krejcikova, who shared a fan post about the end of the partnership on her Instagram story Sunday, said she was surprised by Siniakova's decision but that she respected it. The move is expected to allow both more time to focus on singles -- Krejcikova is the 2021 French Open champion and Siniakova won two singles titles this season -- and might not be forever, but it still feels like the end of an era for one of the best teams to ever play.