Tournaments held the week before Grand Slams are always on tenterhooks.
The tournament directors likely cringe every time their cell phones buzz, wondering which of the marquee players they worked so hard to get (and committed so much cash and promotional money to) are going to bail at the last minute. Or sometimes they get a niggle in the previous tournament and don’t want to risk it before a major.
Or, in the case of Genie Bouchard in Nürnberg, a practice-court injury.
The Canadian committed to the tournament she won back in 2014 well beforehand. Bouchard remains a marquee attraction for these events despite her current ranking of No. 56, because of her previous resumé. And she can command a hefty appearance fee.
We’re hearing that the WTA event in Quebec City last September, right after the US Open, paid upwards of $150,000 for the pleasure of her company even though she lost early.
— NürnbergerCup (@NuernbergerCup) May 22, 2017
Ankle issue just before a major
The reason for Bouchard’s withdrawal is a right ankle issue.
The tournament reported it happened last week during practice as the Canadian opted not to play the qualifying in Rome last week. Instead, she arrived early to practice in Nürnberg.
Bouchard was to play No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan in the first round Tuesday. It had already been scheduled as the marquee match. In fact, it’s still on the schedule on the protennislive.com scoring app as well as the official order of play on the WTA Tour website.
The fact that the tournament announced it after 10 p.m. Nürnberg time Monday probably has something to do with that. (Update: 9 a.m. Paris time – and it’s still up).
Then again, it seems they might have had an idea it was coming. Monday morning, the tournament swapped the promotional banner on its Facebook page for one that didn’t include Bouchard.
The tournament now has had four retirements/withdrawals. And the first round isn’t even over: Bouchard, Maria Sakkari, Alexandra Cadantu and No. 8 seed Monica Niculescu. Bouchard wasn’t seeded.
The other WTA Tour event this week in Strasbourg saw Mirjana Lucic-Baroni pull out late. No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki retired early in the second set of her first-round match against American Shelby Rogers Monday with a back injury.
The inaugural edition of the ATP event in Lyon, France hasn’t lost anyone major yet. But Frenchman Nicolas Mahut needed a breather after winning a tough doubles draw in Rome and cited “fatigue”. Steve Darcis also withdrew.
In Geneva, Viktor Troicki pulled out with a hamstring tear.
More commitments ahead for Bouchard
Bouchard already has made commitments to small events in Mallorca, Spain next month and Luxembourg in October, the week before the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore. That pretty much tells you she’s given up on the notion of making a run for the final eight, in a season in which every single spot is up for grabs.
On the tennis side, you hope the ankle thing is just a precaution with the French Open looming.
Here she is practicing on Friday. She does have a short brace on her right ankle.
And here she is Saturday.
On the tennis commitment side, it’s a tough call. Bouchard’s track record in pulling out of tournaments like this, ones at which she had made early appearance commitments and was very much the focus of pre-tournament promotion, was very sub-par back in 2014 when she was in big demand.
She didn’t do her reputation any good, although she got much better about that the last two years. Apparently the smaller events are more than willing to continue to take that risk. It’s just bad luck all around.