Photo : WYN Tennis
As has become a pattern, Team Canada presented by Sobeys has had to wait over a decade to renew hostilities with Team Belgium at the Billie Jean King Cup.
It has always been more than ten years between meetings for these two nations, meaning the conditions and faces are dramatically different every time. History may as well be thrown out the window.
This time, the Belgians do have a few players who have some experience clashing with Canada in this competition. But it will be an uphill task for the visitors who are missing their biggest stars.
Ahead of this weekend’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifying tie in Vancouver, get to know the women of Team Belgium standing between Canada and a spot at the Finals in November.
Last Time We Met
It has been 14 years since Canada and Belgium crossed paths in the Billie Jean King Cup/Fed Cup. Their most recent meeting was on Belgian soil, literally as the tie was played on clay, in Hasselt in 2009.
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In that meeting, Belgium edged Canada in the fifth and deciding doubles rubber for a 3-2 win.
Yanina Wickmayer, who is a part of the 2023 squad in Vancouver, was the hero of that tie for the Belgians as she secured all three points with a pair of singles wins and the decisive doubles victory. For the doubles, she teamed up with Kirsten Flipkens, who is also still a member of the Belgian team this weekend.
Wickmayer and Flipkens are the only two players for either team who were on court the last time Canada and Belgium faced off.
Overall, Belgium has won all three previous meetings with Canada in Billie Jean King Cup/Fed Cup competition. However, this will be the first time Canada gets to play at home in the rivalry and it will be the first time the two countries face off on a hard court, with all three previous meetings having been contested on clay.
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When Canada and Belgium renew their rivalry this weekend, only one of the four Belgian players ranked inside the Top 100 in singles is making the trip to Vancouver. The top two Belgians in the rankings, No. 29 Elise Mertens and No. 76 Maryna Zanevska, will be absent.
Bonaventure returns to the Belgian Billie Jean King Cup team for her 15th tie. She boasts an overall record of 9-8, with a 5-2 record in singles. However, she went 0-2 in last year’s Finals with a singles and doubles loss.
At No. 86 in the WTA rankings, Bonaventure is the highest-ranked Belgian singles player this weekend and is expected to be their No. 1.
The 28-year-old started the year with a bang, qualifying and reaching the semifinals of her first tournament of 2023 in Auckland, defeating two Canadians who she may face this weekend on the way. But since then, she has struggled, only reaching one quarter-final and arrives in Vancouver on a three-match losing streak.
At 25, Minnen is the youngest member of the Belgian team. Her only previous appearance in the Billie Jean King Cup came at the 2021 Finals, where she posted a 2-1 record by splitting her singles matches and scoring a doubles win.
Minnen is currently ranked No. 171 in singles and has not played a main draw match on the WTA Tour in 2023. However, she has two singles titles on the ITF circuit.
Like most of her current countrywomen, Minnen has seen more success in doubles, where she is currently ranked No. 63 and has won three titles in 2023 on the ITF Tour, all in a row as she is on a 12-match doubles winning streak with teammate Yanina Wickmayer.
Wickmayer will be contesting her 21st Billie Jean King Cup/Fed Cup tie this weekend, including her second against Canada. She made her debut all the way back in 2007.
However, it has been a while since Wickmayer represented her country. Her last appearance came in 2019 when she mustered just three games in a World Group Play-Off singles match against Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.
Overall, Wickmayer boasts an impressive 26-13 record overall in Billie Jean King Cup competition, including 25-11 indoors and 15-9 on hard courts.
While the veteran has not had much singles success in 2023, her best results being a pair of runner-up performances on the ITF Tour, she is a perfect 16-0 in doubles with four titles. Overall, she has reached six consecutive doubles finals dating back to last October, including one at the WTA 250 event in Seoul.
Her lone defeat during that run came on Canadian soil in Saguenay, Quebec.
Flipkens is the longest-serving member of the Belgian team, having made her debut in 2003 and has participated in 32 ties. She has an overall record of 18-33, with the majority of those matches coming in singles.
The 37-year-old holds the highest ranking on Team Belgium with a doubles ranking of No. 43. She represented her country every year since making her debut with the exceptions of 2014 and the COVID-cancelled 2020.
Last year at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, Flipkens played doubles in both of Belgium’s group stage matches, winning her country’s lone point of the entire group stage against Slovakia and losing to Australia.
Flipkens is the lone player on the Belgian squad with a WTA Tour title in 2023, opening the year with a doubles win in Hobart. Since then, she has lost six of seven matches. She has not played any singles this year.
The draw for this weekend’s tie will take place on Thursday.