Brayden Schnur and Peter Polansky fist bump.

Photo : Tennis Canada

Between the format change and the COVID craziness, it has been a long time since the Davis Cup was able to run anything resembling a normal schedule.

But in 2022, we finally get to experience the men’s World Cup of Tennis in a more normal way.

Before the Finals are played in the fall, the field needs to be established which is what is going down this week with the Davis Cup playoffs, including the 2019 finalists looking to get back to the big show.

Here’s what you need to know.

What to Watch: Canada taking on Netherlands, Fernandez title defence

If Canada’s victory at the ATP Cup left you wanting more team tennis, your wait is over.

Team Canada presented by Sobeys is back in action this week with a spot at the Davis Cup Finals on the line as they travel to the Netherlands for the Davis Cup playoffs.

The Canadian team is led by Davis Cup veterans Brayden Schnur, Steven Diez, and Peter Polansky, all of whom were on the team for last fall’s Finals. The trio are joined by Alexis Galarneau, who will be making his Davis Cup debut for Canada.

Schnur and Diez were both members of Canada’s ATP Cup-winning squad in January.

Canada will have their hands full with a strong Dutch team playing on home soil. US Open quarter-finalist Botic van de Sandschulp leads the opposition along with world No. 57 Tallon Griekspoor.

The Dutch team also features veteran Robin Haase and doubles specialists Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middlekoop.

This will be the fifth meeting between Canada and the Netherlands in Davis Cup action. Canada leads the head-to-head 3-1, with the most recent meeting coming less than four years ago in the 2018 playoffs. Haase and Middlekoop are the only members of either team who competed in that 2018 tie, won 3-1 by Canada in Toronto.

The home team has won three of the previous four meetings. Canada won in the Netherlands in their first ever meeting back in 1969. The hosts have won every meeting since.

This tie will be played on indoor clay in The Hague. Play begins on Friday at 2 pm local time, 8 am EST. There will be two singles matches on Friday, followed by two singles matches and a doubles match on Sunday, starting at 1 pm local, 7 am EST.

There are 12 playoff ties taking place around the world this week with spots at the 2022 Davis Cup Finals on the line. The winners will advance to the finals, while the losers while have to play in another playoff in the fall.

New Experience for Fernandez

This week will mark a first for Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez, as the teen will have to defend a title for the first time in her career at the Abierto GNP Seguros in Monterrey, Mexico.

Fernandez defeated Viktorija Golubic in straight sets to win her maiden title in Monterrey last year.

In her title defence, the Canadian is the highest-ranked player in the draw after top seed Elina Svitolina withdrew. She will meet Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round. Fernandez is in the same quarter of the draw as last week’s Guadalajara champion Sloane Stephens, seeded seventh, and the same half as third seed Madison Keys.

This will only be Fernandez’s third event of 2022 and her first since losing in the first round of the Australian Open in January.

It will be a family affair for the Fernandez’s in Mexico, as Leylah is playing doubles with her sister Bianca. They are facing the top seeds Ingrid Neel and Elixane Lechmia is the first round.

In Case You Missed It: Nadal dampens Medvedev’s historic week

Feb. 1, 2004.

Paul Martin was less than two months into his term as Prime Minister of Canada. “The Butterfly Effect” was the number one film at the box office. The Toronto Maple Leafs had reached the second round of the playoffs in four of the previous five seasons and would again a few months later.

It was also the last day where a man not named Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, or Andy Murray was ranked No. 1 on the ATP Tour.

That run of 6601 days ended on Monday when Daniil Medvedev ascended to the top spot.

The Russian was able to climb atop the mountain when Novak Djokovic, who was competing in his first event of 2022, was upset in the quarter-finals of Dubai by Jiri Vesely, who is now a perfect 2-0 against the Serb, assuring that Medvedev would take over at No. 1 regardless of the Russian’s own result in Acapulco.

Medvedev is the third Russian man to reach the top spot and keeps Europe’s streak at No. 1 alive. Andy Roddick, who was usurped by Federer on Feb. 2, 2004, remains the last non-European man to be ranked No. 1.

However, it was a good thing for Medvedev that his new career-high ranking was guaranteed by Djokovic’s defeat, as he was unable to close the deal himself in Acapulco, where he was beaten by the man who could become his biggest challenger for the top spot early this season.

Unlike the final in Melbourne, Nadal came out firing and creamed Medvedev in a straight-set semi-final before going on to win the title, already his third of 2022. The Spaniard is undefeated so far this season and has won a career-high 15 straight matches to start the season.

Meanwhile in Dubai, Vesely backed up his win over Djokovic by outlasting Denis Shapovalov in a three-hour, three-tiebreak semi-final before he ran out of magic against Andrey Rublev in the final, who won his second title in as many weeks.

Świątek continues finals dominance

As usual, the power dynamic on the women’s side remains spread out, as seen at the first WTA 1000 event of the season.

The Qatar Open lived up to its billing and the top stars came to play, with six of the top eight seeds reaching the quarter-finals, along with two in-form lower seeds.

When the dust settled, it was Iga Świątek holding the trophy, her second WTA 1000 title, having defeated the red-hot Anett Kontaveit in a blowout final.

Świątek, who beat top seed Aryna Sabalenka and sixth seed Maria Sakkari on her way to the final, beat Kontaveit 6-2, 6-0. Those two games in the first set are the only two games the Pole has lost in WTA 1000 finals, as she won her previous final in Rome 6-0, 6-0. In fact, Świątek has now won four consecutive finals, dropping five games or less in all of them.

In other action, Stephens won her first title since 2018 in Guadalajara, while Spaniard Pedro Martinez won his first career title at the Chile Open.

Under the Radar

There were a couple of close calls on the lower tours last week.

Vasek Pospisil very nearly picked up his second ATP Challenger title of the year, taking the first set of the final before ultimately falling to Quentin Halys in Pau, France.

On the junior circuit, Annabelle Xu reached the final of the JA tournament in Criciuma, Brazil, one of the biggest finals of her young career.

Carol Zhao, Steven Diez, and Filip Peliwo all reached ITF quarter-finals.

With the Davis Cup taking place, the focus is on the Canadian women this week on the ITF tour, including Billie Jean King Cup team members Rebecca Marino and Carol Zhao competing.

You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.