Leylah Fernandez pumps her fist and yells.

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

Six months ago, the country celebrated its first world championship when the men brought home the Davis Cup.

This week, the quest for the women to do the same begins in Vancouver as Team Canada presented by Sobeys kicks off their campaign to give the country a second team victory in as many years.

Here’s what you need to know.

What to Watch: Rekindling the Vancouver Magic

Canada’s road back to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals will once again run through Vancouver this weekend as the Canadians play host to Belgium in their qualifying round tie.

Both nations will be without their No. 1 player, Bianca Andreescu for the Canadians and Elise Mertens for the Belgians, but on paper the Canadians remain the heavy favourites with both Leylah Annie Fernandez and Rebecca Marino coming into the tie ranked higher than Ysaline Bonaventure, who is the top-ranked Belgian player this weekend.

Fernandez and Marino carried the load in Canada’s sweep of Latvia at the same venue, the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, a year ago along with Gabriela Dabrowski.

Katherine Sebov is the only member of the squad who was not there last year. She is replacing the injured Andreescu and is suiting up for Team Canada for the first time since 2018.

Read also: Sebov looks to continue rise

Joining Bonaventure for Belgium are Greet Minnen, Yanina Wickmayer, and Kirsten Flipkens. All three are Top 100 doubles players, but none rank inside the Top 150 in singles (Fernandez, Marino and Sebov are all ranked inside the Top 140).

Qualifying ties for the Billie Jean King Cup are best of five matches (rubbers), four singles followed by a doubles. Two singles matches will be played on Friday (starting at 4 pm PDT/7 pm EDT) and then the remaining two singles matches and the doubles on Saturday (starting at 2 pm PDT/5 pm EDT).

The winner qualifies for the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November in the UK.

Read also: Tennis Canada unveils plan for Nationwide Davis Cup Trophy Tour

There are nine such qualifying ties taking place around the world this week. Some of the fascinating matchups include a classic rivalry being renewed as Great Britain hosts France, the powerhouse Czechs going to a neutral site to play Ukraine, and the Elena Rybakina-led Kazakhstan playing host to an Iga Swiatek-less Poland.

On the ATP Tour this week, the first jewel of the clay season takes place on the Mediterranean coast as the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the first Masters 1000 event on the dirt, is underway.

Monte-Carlo has been more notable this year for the absences. Among the players skipping the event are the red-hot Carlos Alcaraz, 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, and the top Canadians Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, meaning for the second week in a row there are no Canadians competing on the ATP Tour.

Read also: Sam Aliassime’s Front Row Seat

Novak Djokovic is the top seed in Monte-Carlo. Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is the two-time defending champion.

In Case You Missed It: Hit the Clay Running

The shift from hard courts to clay took place last week and the Canadians got off to a solid start, with all four who played last winning scoring at least one match win.

At the WTA 500 event in Charleston, Leylah Annie Fernandez and Katherine Sebov both won their opening match before losing to big-name seeded opponents in the second round. Fernandez lost a tussle with Paula Badosa, while Sebov was beaten by Belinda Bencic, who went on to reach the final and lose to Ons Jabeur.

Fernandez followed up her finals run in Miami in doubles with a quarter-final performance alongside Taylor Townsend in Charleston.

Read also: ATP First Quarter Report Cards

Down in Bogota, Colombia, Eugenie Bouchard made her return to the tour and scored a strong win over Ylena In-Albon in round one before falling to fourth seed Kamilla Rakhimova in three tight sets in round two.

Carol Zhao scored her first WTA main draw match win of 2023 in Bogota, winning a thrilling third-set tiebreak with Maria Carle before going out in the second round against Francesca Jones.

The switch to clay was exactly what Casper Ruud needed last week. The former World No. 2 came into Estoril with a losing record in 2023 but turned things around on his favourite surface to win his first title of the year.

Read also: Medvedev’s Five-in-Five

At the one clay court event on the calendar in the United States, Frances Tiafoe broke a five-year title drought by winning the title in Houston, his first on clay. His last victory was in 2018 in Delray Beach.

No Canadian men were in action last week on at the ATP Tour.

*(Year-to-date titles/career titles)

Under the Radar:

Canada’s Juan Carlos Aguilar was the biggest winner on the ITF circuit last week for the Canadians, picking up his second doubles title of 2023 with a victory at an M15 event in Ecuador, partnering American Ezekiel Clark. They were the second seeds.

It is the seventh ITF doubles title of the 24-year-old’s career and the second year in a row where he has won one each on clay and hard courts.

Roy Stepanov nearly joined Aguilar in the winner’s circle but lost in the doubles final of an M25 event in Italy.

On the ATP Challenger Tour, Steven Diez reached the quarter-finals on clay in Italy.

Diez is back at it this week at a Challenger event in Madrid. Davis Cup champions Gabriel Diallo and Alexis Galarneau are playing at Challenger events in Sarasota, Florida (Diallo) and Leon, Mexico (Galarneau).

You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.