The obvious sign was the sound the ball made when it hit his bat.
“Every time, the contact was made in the middle of the racket, and that was the case with Marina when she was 8 years old,” Thompson said. She hit the ball hard every time. »
Now 18 years old, Stakusic is turning in an exceptional performance this week in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals. She was chosen to surprise everyone in singles, posting an unexpected 6-3, 6-1 win over Spain’s Rebecca Massarova in her first match on Wednesday.
“I think she behaved very well when she was under pressure, and when her opponent was giving signals that she was going to get back into the match,” said Sylvain Bruneau, a high-performance advisor with the Canadian Tennis Association. “I think she was great at making sure that didn’t happen.” »
Originally from Mississauga, Stakusic developed his skills from a young age at the Eglinton Flats Winter Tennis Club. Thompson was the director of tennis at the West Toronto Club for more than two decades.
“Nothing bothered her,” Thompson said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.
“Never get angry on the tennis court. Tennis is a mental game. You should always keep your calm.”
— Mike Thompson
“Marina is always calm on the tennis court – always. From the age of eight. »
Stakosek performed like a veteran in front of a large crowd on Wednesday and showed no signs of nervousness on one of tennis’s biggest stages. Captain Heidi El Tabakh chose her over Rebecca Marino and Eugenie Bouchard, her more experienced teammates.
“We knew she was full of confidence,” Bruno said. She’s been doing really well lately. This is a factor that must be taken into consideration. We also thought that she was young, on the rise, and that facing her would put a lot of pressure on her opponent’s shoulders, and that’s exactly what happened. »
She started again on Thursday and earned a 4−6, 7−5, 6−3 win over Poland’s Magdalena Frisch. Layla Fernandez again followed with a singles win to secure Canada’s place in the fourth round of the 12-team competition.
The Canadiens were out on Friday before the semifinals on Saturday. The final match is scheduled to be held 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 fight on the court and uses her all-around game to her advantage.
“She has a lot of elements in her arsenal,” Seville’s Bruno explained. She has an excellent backhand, is able to give angles to her shots, and is able to change the tempo of the ball, which combined with her very heavy groundstrokes is interesting.
“She actually loves going to the net. She often steps up to finish points, so she’s really good at the net. If you put it all together, she has a very complete game.”
Once the Billie Jean King Cup Finals are over, Bruno said he will join Stakosek at the Challenger tournament in Portugal. He added that after a short period of rest, she will split her off-season training between Montreal and Florida.
“I think she will become a very good player. There is no doubt.”
— Sylvain Bruno
Ranked 258th in the world, Stakusic has yet to play a main draw match on the WTA Tour. She reached the final round of qualifying for the National Bank Open last summer in Montreal.
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,” Thompson said. “There’s not much to teach someone like that.”