Leylah Fernandez waves to the crowd.

Photo : Jordan Leigh

It was not as easy as a year ago in Vancouver for Team Canada presented by Sobeys, but the final result was the same. Canada’s best female tennis players will look to follow their male counterparts’ lead and claim a first world championship later this year.

And now it’s time to properly shift attention to the clay.

Here’s what you need to know.

In Case You Missed It: Clutch Canada

Belgium was always going to pose a greater challenge to than Latvia did in 2022 for the Canadians, but that did not make the Billie Jean King Cup qualifying tie in Vancouver any less tense as it went right down to the wire.

In the end, Leylah Annie Fernandez played the hero, scoring all three points for the Canadians in a 3-2 victory. She won both her singles matches, albeit in dramatically different fashion with a blowout win on day one and an epic comeback on day two, before sealing the tie alongside Gabriela Dabrowski in the decisive doubles match.

Despite the close scoreline, it easily could have been a sweep for the Canadians as both Rebecca Marino and Katherine Sebov lost epic three-setters that could have gone their way.

Canada is through to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals for the third year in a row. The Finals will be played in November at a location that has yet to be announced.

Overall, nine teams, including Canada, booked their place in the Finals during last weekend’s qualifying round. Defending champions Switzerland and 2022 runners-up Australia had already sealed their spots. One place in the Finals is still to be handed out, either to the host nation or a wildcard.

Read also: Pressure Not a Problem for Fernandez

The most notable result from the qualifying round was 2022 semifinalists Great Britain falling to France. Poland was also defeated by Kazakhstan, meaning world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who did not play in the qualifying round, will not participate in the Finals.

Over on the ATP Tour, the first major piece of hardware from the clay court swing ended up in the hands of Andrey Rublev as the 25-year-old won his first Masters 1000 title in Monte-Carlo, defeating Holger Rune in the final.

It was the younger players taking charge at the Monte-Carlo Masters, as all four semifinalists, Rublev, Rune, Taylor Fritz (who took out two-time defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas) and Jannik Sinner were all 25 years old or younger.

Novak Djokovic played his first event in over a month in Monte-Carlo, but was upset in the third round by Lorenzo Musetti.

Read the full recap on the National Bank Open website.

No Canadians participated in Monte-Carlo.

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

What to Watch: Denis on the Dirt

Denis Shapovalov will be the first Canadian to step foot on Europe’s red clay in 2023 as he is at the ATP 500 event in Barcelona. He is the only Canadian in singles action on either main tour this week.

He is seeded 14th and will meet qualifier Jozef Kovalik in his opening match. He could play second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round.

Were he to upset the four-time clay-court titlist, eighth seed Alex de Minaur would be Shapovalov’s projected quarter-final opponent. Jannik Sinner and Cameron Norrie are potential semifinal opponents.

Carlos Alcaraz is the top seed and defending champion. Also participating in Barcelona are Casper Ruud and Frances Tiafoe. Absent is 12-time champion and primary court namesake Rafael Nadal.

Gabriela Dabrowski is making the quick turnaround from the indoor hard courts in Vancouver to red clay in Europe as she is back alongside Luisa Stefani this week at the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart. They are seeded fourth and play the all-German pair of Mona Barthel and Anna-Lena Friedsam in the first round.

Read also: Andreescu Lends Her Support to Team Canada

As always, the field in Stuttgart is loaded and features eight of the WTA’s Top 10, including world No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek, who is back in action for the first time since Indian Wells and has a blockbuster in round two against Qinwen Zheng, who took her to three sets last year at Roland-Garros. Both of their previous matches have been three-setters.

Jessica Pegula and Petra Kvitova are the only Top 10 players skipping Stuttgart.

One section of the draw to watch is the first-round clash between former major champions Jelena Ostapenko and Emma Raducanu, with the winner to face third-seed Ons Jabeur.

The two ATP 250 events this week both boast strong fields.

Novak Djokovic will look to get his clay feet underneath him in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina where he is the top seed. Newly-minted Monte-Carlo champion Andrey Rublev is the second seed.

Holger Rune will look to carry his strong form to Munich, where he is the top seed and is joined by fellow Monte-Carlo semifinalist Taylor Fritz, as well as two-time champion Alexander Zverev.

Under the Radar: Shaw off and running

Canada’s wheelchair tennis star Rob Shaw claimed his first title of 2023 last weekend, winning the doubles at the Seoul Korea Open alongside Heath Davidson. It is the 20th doubles title of Shaw’s career.

With the exception of the COVID-limited 2020 and 2021 years, Shaw has won multiple doubles titles in a season every year since 2014. He is currently ranked No. 4 in the world in quad doubles, his career high.

He will look to continue his good form this week at an ITF event in Japan.

Juan Carlos Aguilar was seeing double in Ecuador, as he and Ezekiel Clark ran it back, winning their second straight ITF doubles title in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas.

Gabriel Diallo had the strongest showing by a Canadian on the ATP Challenger Tour last week, reaching the quarter-finals in Sarasota before retiring against the eventual champion Daniel Altmaier.

Eugenie Bouchard highlights the Canadians on the ITF circuit this week. She is competing at a W100 event in Oeiras, Portugal.

Alexis Galarneau and Benjamin Sigouin are competing at separate events on the ATP Challenger Tour.

You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.