With Canada's Fed Cup team ready to take on the Slovak Republic next week, Blainville, Quebec's Aleksandra Wozniak - who played in February against Serbia in her first Fed Cup tie since 2011 - sets the stage with her personal blog on RDS.ca and TSN.ca.
Before starting this column, I'd like to thank the people who've supported me since my return to the circuit. I read your comments and thank you for continuing to encourage me.
In addition to fans, there's also a whole team behind me and a great Canadian delegation, as this will be the case at the Fed Cup on April 19 and April 20 in Quebec City. These people behind the scenes may say little, but will give me a boost for the entire week of competition - and also for the rest of the year.
There's André Parent, our fitness coach who's responsible for conditioning both the pros and the young developing players at Uniprix Stadium. He's worked with us for a long time and on Wednesday he was appointed chief physical trainer for the Fed Cup. He's one of the most important people in my career, helping me return to competition after my shoulder injury and avoiding surgery.
Also, Marlene Nobrega has been our physiotherapist for more than 20 years - both in the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup - along with massage therapist Samantha Cox. In addition to André Barrette, who deals with the administrative aspect of our program, there's captain Sylvain Bruneau and coach Simon Larose. Not to mention so many other volunteers who are involved.
The big difference playing elsewhere compared to Canada, as was the case in Serbia in February of 2011, is that we had the crowd against us. With our team on our side, it's as if we brought some of our supporters with us outside our home.
Not underestimating our opponents
This will be the second time we're participating in the World Group play-offs, but we've never managed to take the next step forward so it's an opportunity for us to make Canadian history.
Dominika Cibulkova and Daniela Hantuchova won't be taking part, but Magdalena Rybarikova is still an excellent player. Jana Cepelova's confidence will be high after making the Family Circle Cup final last weekend. I don't know Michaela Honcova well, but with Anna Schmiedlova (65th in the world), the Slovak Republic will have three players in the Top 80. So it will be very important for us to showcase our best tennis. While Cibulkova and Hantuchova aren't there, we should not underestimate them.
Facing little-known players, we'll need to adjust our training accordingly and continue to properly train and prepare mentally. We'll also benefit from a week together before the tournament to build our team spirit. After all, this isn't an individual competition. We'll do things as a team and keep encouraging each other.
This is a big opportunity for us - especially playing here in Quebec City - and we know we'll have the support of 3,500 supporters at the new Amphitheatre at PEPS, Laval University.
A boost of energy
Whenever I had a serious injury in the past, the Fed Cup arrived at the right time and the tournament gave me that boost of confidence. And after the competition, I returned and carried that renewed confidence to other tournaments.
I haven't used my protected ranking since the Indian Wells tournament, but I think going through qualifications has had its advantages. Since my return to the game, I've needed to build up matches. It gives me set benchmarks and confidence and it also allows me to refine my work on the court. As a result, I've beaten 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki and have also won against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Urszula Radwanska. And it was difficult after missing so much action. I've now had 23 matches under my belt since January and it's allowed me to bring my game to its highest level.
My service has also notably improved. Over the last six months, I've found more power but I'm still working on my consistency. There are several factors which still have an effect on my shoulder, such as playing altitude, temperature, or even the type of tennis balls I'm using. But I've found a certain level of stability despite the changing game conditions.
When I started to play after injuring my shoulder, I was 288th in the world. Now I'm 153rd and have made good progress over the last three months.
But I want to be even better. I feel great in my workouts and I just have to concentrate on doing the right things and continuing to climb up.