Photo: Gibi Saini

Among the nominees for this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Heart Award is our very own Leylah Fernandez for winning all three of her matches during Canada’s 3–2 win over Belgium in Vancouver. She’s in the running with Barbora Krejcikova of Czechia and Tamara Zidansek and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia.

Back in April, Leylah conquered Yanina Wickmayer (6-0, 6-3) and Ysaline Bonaventure (4-6, 7-5, 6-2) and then teamed up with Gabriela Dabrowski to defeat Kirsten Flipkens and Greet Minnen (6-1, 6-2) and punch Canada’s ticket to the BJK Cup Finals in Seville, Spain, in November.

You have until 9 a.m. (ET) on Friday, May 19 to lock in your vote. Click here to vote.

Although Leylah’s only 20, this is her third nomination (2023, 2021, 2020). In 2021, she took home the Heart Award after she helped Canada sweep Serbia 4–0 by winning her two singles matches in three sets apiece.

Photo : @BJKCup

The Heart Award, which is being handed out for the 14th time, recognizes a player who’s represented their country with distinction, shown exemplary courage on the court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during Billie Jean King Cup competition.

Read also: Pressure Not a Problem for Leylah Fernandez at Billie Jean King Cup

The nomination will hopefully have a soothing effect on the Montrealer, who’s been on a bumpy ride since January.

She was 7–9 when she was booted out of the Top 50 after another early exit, this time from Rome. She secured her biggest win so far this season when she overpowered No.34 Alizé Cornet.

Photo : Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

Winning the BJK Cup Heart Award would certainly impart even more positive vibes and remind her of the top-notch tennis she played for her country when it really mattered.

Milos back in the mix?

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If it’s true, it would be fantastic news.

It looks like Milos Raonic may be on the verge of a comeback, possibly sooner rather than later. He’s apparently aiming for the grass season in early June.

If all go as expected, it will be at one of the first tournaments, at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. On the event site, Raonic may be seen, as 33rd in the world (protected ranking), along with his young compatriot Félix Auger-Aliassime (no. 10).

The first indication he’d be returning came on May 10, when freelance sports reporter John Horn tweeted that he’d heard a loose rumour about it.

Three days later, Guillaume Marx, Head of Performance at Tennis Canada, confirmed the information.

He’s kept in touch and up to date with Raonic. At the press conference to wrap up Tennis Canada’s 2022 season, he said Milos had no intention of retiring and would be making an announcement in due time.

Photo : Paul Rivard

What will his comeback look like? Will he try his luck at ATP 250 or even Challenger events? How ambitious are his goals with only three tournaments leading into the season’s third Slam?

In 2016, Milos competed in the Wimbledon final (after dismantling Federer in the semis) and tied his record for the most matches played in a season (69). The 52 wins he posted are still his personal best.

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In 2021, ranked No.22, Milos played only ten matches. His final bout was a three-set loss to Brandon Nakashima (5-7, 6-3, 7-6[4]) in the round of 16 at the Atlanta Open on July 28.

Now sitting at No.738, the 32-year-old can only aim for health, at least for the rest of the season. Will he follow Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray, who’ve clawed their way back into the Top 100? Or will he keep to smaller tournaments and play for the love of the game for the next few years?

You know what they say: stay tuned.

Mental timeout

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

After Leylah Fernandez, who took part in the first instalment of the WTA’s Real Me series in which players sat down to talk about the importance of mental wellness in today’s reality, Bianca Andreescu agreed to be featured in the second release.

Read also: The Relationship Between Mental Health and Athletic Performance

With the examples of Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu, Paula Badosa and, most recently, Amanda Anisimova, the initiative led by the WTA and its partner Modern Health is of particular importance and sheds light on a current issue in tennis. 

Read all about Bianca and The Real Me project in the National Bank Open blog.

Deep fields

Photo : John Thys/Belga

With the Rome Masters in full swing, some of the players who were left in the dust but still wanted to get a few more matches in before Roland-Garros are currently going head-to-head at smaller tournaments.

Including quite a few big names.

The list of players at the BNP Paribas Primrose in Bordeaux makes the Challenger look a lot like an ATP 250.

Read also: Auger-Aliassime Out to Popyrin Again, Andreescu Falls to Vondrousova in Rome

There’s No.28 Jan-Lennard Struff, who was a finalist in Madrid last year, as well as No.42 Andy Murray, No.84 Stan Wawrinka, No.52 Mikael Ymer, No.61 Tomas Martin Etcheverry, No.72 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, No.73 Ilya Ivashka and the French contingent of No.44 Richard Gasquet, No.45 Adrian Mannarino, No.50 Ugo Humbert, No.67 Corentin Moutet and No.89 Arthur Rinderknech.

Plus Thiem vs. Paire in the first round.

Photo : R. Martin/L’Équipe

It’s serious business: all eight seeds are Top 70 players.

There are former members of the Top 10 and Top 3 and even a former World No.1.

That said, their quick dismissal from a headlining event is what prompted them to hop on a plane to the Challenger.

It happens in the WTA, too. On May 6 in Saint-Malo, eventual champion No.36 Sloane Stephens and No.540 Elina Svitolina collided in the semis of the WTA 125. In 2018, they battled for the WTA Finals crown.

Photo : Getty

En Espagne, au tournoi Catalogne, Sorana Cirstea (34e) a défait en demi-finale Lauren Davis (53e) avant d’aller gagner l’événement.

At the WTA 125 Catalonia Open, No.34 Sorana Cirstea frustrated No.53 Lauren Davis in the semifinals and went on to raise the winner’s trophy.

At the Firenze Ladies Open this week, Lauren Davis and No.56 Claire Liu are the top two seeds. And at the WTA 125 Trophée Clarins in Paris, No.44 Aliaksandra Sasnovich, who very recently dismantled Fernandez in Rome, is the top seed. No.46 Varvara Gracheva and No.44 Alycia Parks are the second and third.

And while we’re on the topic of Leylah, she went from Rome to the ITF W100 in Madrid this week.

It’s something to think about when the Challenger series comes to your area. Always check the player list, since you never know who’ll be competing in your local tournament… for a cheap price.

While you could pay between 179 and 350 Euros ($261 and $510 CAD) in Rome, in Bordeaux, for 18 Euros, one could watch Kokkinakis vs. Gasquet or Wawrinka vs. Murray.

THAT’s a deal.

Here’s the link to all the details on the Canadian pro tennis calendar.



Twitter: @paul6rivard

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