Photo : Jordan Leigh
When asked what words they would use to describe their team during their Billie Jean King Cup tie last month, the members of Team Canada presented by Sobeys used “fighter, resilient, courageous.”
Leylah Annie Fernandez’s heroic performance best exemplified these traits and now she is getting the recognition she deserves.
On Tuesday, Fernandez was named the winner of the Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award. The winner was chosen by the fans through an online vote.
The win came at the third time of asking for Fernandez, who had previously been nominated in 2020 and 2021. She beat out Barbora Krejcikova of Czechia and Tamara Zidansek and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia for the award.
All it took for the scrappy Canadian to finally earn the award was putting the nation on her back and winning all three points in Canada’s 3-2 win over Belgium.
This award comes at a time when Fernandez is working hard to get her game back to the level she displayed in Vancouver with Roland-Garros right around the corner.
Here’s what you need to know.
In Case You Missed It: Unlikely Winners in Rome
While Daniil Medvedev and Elena Rybakina winning titles may not be surprising, their victories coming in Rome was a bit unusual.
For Medvedev, it was a first career title on the surface for the self-proclaimed “hard court specialist” who has also vocally complained about clay courts in the past. He defeated Holger Rune, who himself had taken out world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, in straight sets in the final.
As a result of Rome, Medvedev will move back up to No. 2 in the rankings, while Carlos Alcaraz reclaims the top spot.
Rybakina’s second clay-court title, and first since 2019, was one of the stranger runs as she benefited from her opponent retiring in three of her six matches. That included the quarter-finals when world No. 1 Iga Swiatek pulled out with a thigh injury and in the title match against first-time WTA 1000 finalist Anhelina Kalinina, who pulled out in the second set.
Having been bounced in the first week of Rome, Leylah Annie Fernandez took to the ITF circuit to try and get some wins under her belt on clay ahead of next week’s French Open. She reached the semifinals of a W100 event in Madrid as the top seed where she lost to Sara Sorribes Tormo.
What to Watch: Last Prep Before Paris
Clay has not been kind to Felix Auger-Aliassime in 2023 and he will look to get whatever momentum he can muster this ahead week ahead of the French Open as he is the top seed in Lyon.
His first opponent will be qualifier Pablo Llamas Ruiz, followed by either Arthur Fils or Mikael Ymer in the quarter-finals. He could meet either No. 3 Tommy Paul or No. 8 Brandon Nakashima in the semis. Cameron Norrie is the second seed.
Fernandez will also try to score a few more victories at the WTA 250 event in Rabat where she is the fifth seed. She defeated Angela Fita Boluda in the first round and will face Peyton Stearns in the second round.
Read also: Tips to Improve Your Mental Health
Second seed Sloane Stephens is Fernandez’s potential quarter-final opponent. Martina Trevisan is the top seed.
There are also events this week taking place in Strasbourg (WTA 250) and Geneva (ATP 250).
Under the Radar:
Eugenie Bouchard hit another bump on her comeback last week at the WTA 125 event in Florence. She reached the quarter-finals without dropping a set but was then forced to retire in the second set of her match against Sara Errani.
The injury appeared to be to her knee, a different injury from the one in her shoulder that has limited her play over the last few years.
Katherine Sebov and Carol Zhao both competed in a different WTA 125 event in Paris but lost in the second and first round respectively. Both are competing in qualifying for Roland-Garros this week, along with Gabriel Diallo on the men’s side.
There was a clash of Canadians in an ITF doubles final last week at the M25 event in Pensacola, Florida as Benjamin Sigouin overcame Roy Stepanov to claim the title. Both Canadians were playing with American partners. It’s the second doubles title of the year for Sigouin.
Juan Carlos Aguilar, Kayla Cross, and Louisa Kwong were also doubles runners-up last week at different events on the ITF circuit.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.