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Monday Digest: Leylah Fernandez dominant as Canada victorious at home

Apr 18, 2022
written by: Tennis Canada
written by: Tennis Canada

Team Canada presented by Safeway’s return home was well worth the wait.

After years of not getting to play on home soil in team competition, the Canadian women took full advantage of their home court in Vancouver this weekend, putting on a show as they booked their ticket to the Billie Kean King Cup Finals with a blowout victory.

Canada’s performance was among the best from a busy weekend. Here’s what you need to know:

In Case You Missed It: Happy Homecoming in BJK Cup

It had been nearly four years since Canada last played a home tie in the Billie Jean King Cup, so long ago that the competition was still called the Fed Cup. On that weekend in April 2018, the Canadians narrowly scraped out a 3-2 win over Ukraine.

Upon their return last weekend, there was no such drama and the results were worth the wait for Canadian fans. Led by a stellar performance from Leylah Annie Fernandez, the Canadians booked their spot in November’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals with a 4-0 win over Latvia.

Fernandez, who was making her debut on home soil in Billie Jean King Cup competition having previously played in three away ties, was absolutely dominant, losing six total games in two singles matches that combined to be shorter than Rebecca Marino’s three-set singles win. The Canadian No. 1 also broke serve 10 times in her opponents’ combined 12 service games.

In the opening match, Fernandez needed less than an hour to dismantle Darja Sementistaja 6-1, 6-2 to get the hosts off to a dream start. The Canadian broke her opponent in every single one of her service games in the match.

Next up was Marino, competing in front of her home crowd in Vancouver. That home court advantage may have been the difference for the Canadian veteran, who gritted out a tight three-set win over Daniela Vismane to put the home team in control 2-0 after day one.

On Saturday, it took Fernandez just over an hour to close out the tie, beating Vismane 2 and 1 to clinch a 3-0 advantage for Canada. Gabriela Dabrowski and Carol Zhao then put a bow on the weekend with a doubles win to complete the sweep.

Canada advances to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November for the second year in a row. The site is yet to be determined.

Elsewhere in the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers, if there was one player better this weekend than Fernandez, it was the world No. 1 Iga Świątek, who led Poland to a win over Romania. The world’s best women’s player stretched her winning streak to 19 matches and only lost one game in her two singles matches.

In a bizarre twist, US Open champion Emma Raducanu made her top-level debut on clay this weekend representing the United Kingdom against the Czech Republic. Raducanu won her opening match, but lost her second as the Brits were defeated 3-2.

The United States thwarted a Ukrainian comeback with a deciding-rubber doubles win after the Ukrainians, who went into Saturday down 0-2, won both reverse singles to make the doubles meaningful. That tie featured an epic tiebreak in the opening match, won by Alison Riske 18-16 in the first set of the opening singles match.

Italy, Spain and Kazakhstan were among the other playoff victors from the weekend. Belgium also won by default due to Belarus being banned from the competition.

Tsitsipas doubles up in Monte Carlo

The Billie Jean King Cup overshadowed the first clay-court Masters 1000 event of 2022, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, which is an event that is used to repeat champions and saw another one this year.

Stefanos Tsitsipas went back-to-back on the Mediterranean coast, beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in straight sets in the final. Both of the Greek’s Masters 1000 titles have been in Monte Carlo.

In the Open Era, five men have won consecutive titles in Monte Carlo. All of them won the French Open at some point in their careers.

Despite Tsitsipas ultimately claiming the title, Davidovich Fokina was the big story of the week, as he upset Novak Djokovic in three sets in the second round and then Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals on his way to what was not just his first Masters 1000 final, but his first final on the ATP Tour.

Félix Auger-Aliassime was the lone Canadian competing in Monte Carlo and his cold streak continued, as the Canadian No. 1 fell to 0-3 at the Masters 1000 level in 2022, losing his opening match to Lorenzo Musetti.

What to Watch: Bianca is Back

All eyes will be on the WTA 500 event in Stuttgart this week, where 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu makes her long-awaited return to the tour after a seven-month absence. She received a wildcard to compete.

Andreescu has not played a match on tour since Indian Wells last October. She will open her campaign in Stuttgart against Jule Niemeier and would meet third seed Aryna Sabalenka in the second round. Anett Kontaveit, the last player Andreescu played in a competitive match, looms in the quarter-finals.

The draw in Stuttgart is loaded and includes four of the world’s Top 5 players, including the world No. 1 Świątek. It also features Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari, Karolina Pliskova, Ons Jabeur and Raducanu as seeds.

Auger-Aliassime will look to turn things around this week in Barcelona, where he is the third seed. After a bye, he will meet either Sebastien Korda or qualifier Carlos Teberner. Next up could be 13th seed Frances Tiafoe.

He is in the same quarter as sixth seed Diego Schwartzman, who would have been his round three opponent in Monte Carlo, and the same half as second seed Casper Ruud.

Tsitsipas in the top seed and is in line for a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Carlos Alcaraz.

Over in Belgrade, Djokovic will look to get his 2022 record back over .500 on home soil where he is the top seed. That event also features the return of Dominic Thiem, who has not competed on the ATP Tour since June of last year due to a combination of injuries and COVID.

The final event of the week is a WTA 250 event in Istanbul where Elise Mertens is the top seed.

Under the Radar:

Last week on the ITF circuit, 17-year-old Canadian Marina Stakusic reached the semi-finals of the W15 event in Cario, Egypt where she lost in three sets.

At the W25 event in Nottingham, Katherine Sebov reached the quarter-finals, where she lost a narrow three-setter to second seed Jana Fett.

This week on the ATP Challenger Tour, Steven Diez is competing at the San Marcos Open in Mexico

You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.