Canadians Kayla Cross, Marina Stakusik drop Calgary Challenger finale

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Calgarians got a first-hand look Saturday at a possible future powerhouse duo in women’s doubles.

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The best part is that it’s a home-grown tennis twosome.

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Kayla Cross, of London, Ont., and Toronto’s Marina Stakusik finished tops among Canadians at the 2022 Calgary National Bank Challenger, earning well-deserved kudos for a runner-up performance in the ITF Women’s Pro Circuit event at the Osten & Victor Alberta Tennis Centre.

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“It was a great final for us,” said Cross despite losing the championship match 7-6 (2), 6-4 to all-American team of Catherine Harrison and Sabrina Santamaria.

“They were a little bit better in tighter moments,” continued the young Canadian. “But these girls were ranked like 80th in the world for doubles, so it was really cool to play against such high-level players. And we showed that we could stay in it with them.”

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Indeed, Cross and Stakusik — both just 17 years old — hung tough in both sets, taking the older Americans right down to the wire in the first and owning a lead in the second before eventually falling to the tournament’s top seeds.

A win would’ve meant their best-ever finish, considering The Calgary Challenger women’s side is a $60,000 ITF event.

But the Canadian partners, who teamed up to win a $25,000 ITF stop in Saskatoon earlier this year, can hold their heads high and be proud of their effort.  

“When you’re playing in a 25K, of course, the level is going to be a little bit weaker than in the 60K,” said Cross, comparing the competition here to their victory in Saskatchewan. “And (Harrison and Santamaria) have played in grand slams, so they have a little bit more experience than us. We’re 17, so we’re just starting out on the pro tour.”

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But the future looks bright …


“Definitely,” said Stakusik, whose nod in favour of the idea matched that of Cross. “It’s definitely going to continue in the future. I’m looking forward to playing Kayla more.”

Cross agreed: “We’ll definitely play more together, and I’m excited for it.”

Canadian doubles legend Daniel Nestor likes the idea, calling their journey a joyful one in Calgary.

“They’ve got great energy,” Nestor said. “Kayla’s been doing great in junior doubles over the course of the year, and it’s translated well to the pros. And Marina’s obviously a great singles player, and they combine well.

“Marina’s very strong at the back and returns very well. And Kayla’s very capable at the net and kind of a natural doubles player. So they’re fun to watch.

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“Ideally, you want to play with the same partner as much as possible, just because you get used to being on the same side of the net and understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” continued Nestor. “Plus the communication obviously grows as you stay together.”

The only other Canadian in action on the Calgary Challenger’s penultimate day Saturday was Montreal’s Gabriel Diallo, but he fell in men’s singles semifinal play to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 7-6 (2), 6-1. The other men’s semi saw Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic top Maks Kasnikowski 7-5, 7-6 (2). 

The men’s doubles final saw Austria’s Maximilian Neuchrist and Greece’s Michail Pervolarakis earn a straight-sets championship — 6-4, 6-4 — over Italy’s Julian Ocleppo and Germany’s Kai Wehnelt.

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In women’s singles semifinal action, it was Poland’s Urszula Radwanska defeating Hong Kong’s Eudice Chong — the tourney’s second seed — 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 and fifth-ranked Robin Montgomery ousting seventh-seed Jamie Loeb 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (3) in an all-American match.

But the most popular moment of the day for Calgarians attending the $75,000 ATP Challenger Tour stop was savouring the Cross-Stakusik performance.

“It was a really exciting match,” added Stakusik. “The crowd was really into it, so I think that made it a lot more fun. Obviously, it’s sad that we couldn’t get the win.

“But it’s been a really great week, a positive week.”


The eight-day Calgary Challenger wraps up Sunday at the Osten & Victor Alberta Tennis Centre … Doors open at 11 a.m., and the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony, featuring Calgary builder Ron Ghitter — an 87-year-old former member of Alberta’s legislature — takes centre stage at 12:40 p.m. … That’s followed by the two finals, beginning at 1 p.m. with Radwanska vs. Montgomery in the women’s final. Koepfer vs. Vukic in the men’s final concludes the tourney.

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