Leylah happy with the win BJK CUP 2021

Photo : Srdjan Stevanovic/Tennis Canada

Tennis may technically be an individual sport, but who doesn’t love a team competition?

Team Canada presented by Sobeys are the stars this week as they make a long-awaited return home, playing host to Billie Jean King Cup competition for the first time in the 2020s.

And they’re sending their A-team too.

Here’s what you need to know.

What to Watch: Team Canada lands in Vancouver

It’s been almost four years exactly since Canada last played Billie Jean King Cup (then Fed Cup) matches on home soil.

But that wait ends this week when the Canadians play host to Latvia in the qualifiers at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.

The Canadians will be led by their top player, Leylah Fernandez, who will be competing in her first Billie Jean King Cup home tie, having played three times previously on the road.

Joining Fernandez are the four women who represented Canada last fall at the finals, upsetting the defending champions France in the round robin. Rebecca Marino, Gabriela Dabrowski, Francoise Abanda and Carol Zhao round out the Canadian roster.

Standing in Canada’s way are the Latvians, who are led by world No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko.

The last time Canada played a Billie Jean King Cup tie at home, Eugenie Bouchard picked up a pair of wins on the way to a 3-2 win over Ukraine in the 2018 World Group II playoffs. Dabrowski and Abanda are the only two members of the 2022 team that played that tie.

The winner of this week’s playoff will clinch a spot at the 2022 Finals in November.

Felix looks for turnaround

A week after getting his clay court season underway, Félix Auger-Aliassime will look to get his groove back at the first clay Masters 1000 event of 2022 in Monte Carlo.

The Canadian is the eighth seed and has a first-round bye. His first match will be against either Lorenzo Musetti or Benoit Paire. He could meet 12th seed Diego Schwartzman in the third round and is in the same quarter as defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Auger-Aliassime is the only Canadian competing in Monte Carlo. This venue has not been kind to him in the past, as he has a 1-3 record in three appearances.

Novak Djokovic makes his return to the tour after missing the Sunshine Double last month and is the top seed. He has a potential mouth-watering quarter-final clash with the red-hot Carlos Alcaraz. Djokovic would be a semi-final opponent for Auger-Aliassime.

Notable absences from Monte Carlo include world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal, both of whom are out with injuries.

In Case You Missed It: Slippery Start on Clay

The first week of the clay court swing did not go well for Canada, as the three players competing on the main tours combined for one match win.

That victory was Auger-Aliassime, who won his opening round match in Marrakech where he was the top seed. However, he was upset in a third-set tiebreak in the second round by Alex Molcan, despite holding a match point.

Fernandez and Steven Diez both lost their respective first main-draw matches on clay this year.

Diez, who got into Houston as a lucky loser, lost his first-round match to Jordan Thompson. Fernandez was knocked out of Charleston by Magda Linette in a rain-delayed three-setter.

Belinda Bencic went on to win Charleston, her first title since the Olympics last summer. David Goffin also ended a year-long title drought by winning Marrakech, beating Molcan in the final. Reilly Opelka won his first clay title in a big-serving Houston final against John Isner. Tatjana Maria won the title at the WTA 250 event in Bogota, Colombia.

Under the Radar: The Genie is out of the Bottle

All eyes will be on the ITF event in Palm Harbour this week when Genie Bouchard makes her return to competitive tennis. The former world No. 5 has missed 13 months after shoulder surgery. Her last event was Monterrey in March 2021.

Bouchard received a wild card to the W100 event.

Alexis Galarneau is the lone Canadian competing on the ATP Challenger Tour this week in Sarasota, Florida.

Along with Bouchard, there is a fairly large group of Canadians competing in ITF events this week.

You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.