As of Sunday, Genie Bouchard’s longtime deal with Babolat is expiring.
So, to start the 2018 season, the 23-year-old Canadian won’t be under contract with a racket manufacturer for the first time … probably since she had braces.
That’s why there have been photos circulating of Bouchard practicing at Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia with a Head racket.
It’s one of the Graphene Touch Radical sticks, one of several models sent to Bouchard by the company.
But she has not, as some have speculated or assumed, made the switch or signed a new deal.
Tennis.Life is told that Bouchard has been experimenting with various Head models, as well as Wilson rackets. Bouchard played with Wilson for many years before making the switch to Babolat.
She also is considering staying with Babolat.
The companies sent some sticks down to Florida for Bouchard to try. So far – at least from what we’ve seen at the Hopman Cup, the Head racket is in the lead.
But Bouchard is likely to head to the Australian Open without a deal. In fact, she may not even have anything finalized until the Tour swings back to the U.S. in March.
Tough time to switch
The timing is not ideal to demo a new stick. Bouchard’s first official tournament starts in just over a week in Hobart, and is followed by the Australian Open.
A lot of players try out new models in the off-season (you can usually tell them by the blacked-out frames), but not when they’re starting the season.
Sometimes a player will have an immediate fit with a new frame.
Bouchard’s countryman Denis Shapovalov was one such player; he switched from Wilson to Yonex at Queen’s Club in June. And everyone saw what happened later in the summer.
But others have struggled for an entire season after making a switch.
It’s also not an ideal time to negotiate a new sponsorship, with 2018 budgets already locked up.
New coach, hitting partner for Bouchard
The racket isn’t the only change for Bouchard, as she arrived Down Under.
With her is veteran American coach Harold Solomon, with whom she trained some in Fort Lauderdale during the off-season.
Also on Team Genie in Perth is Robbye Poole, who was a hitting partner for Serena Williams for many years.
Early photos had the internet speculating about whether Bouchard had reunited with longtime former coach Nick Saviano, which was somewhat understandable.
There’s at least a passing resemblance between the two.
Solomon is a few years older, and a few inches shorter. But there are definitely some similarities. Both Solomon and Saviano are based in Florida. And they have worked with several of the same players.
A former world No. 5, Solomon has Jennifer Capriati and Jim Courier on his resumé. He also worked with Anna Kournikova at the end of her career.
If things go well in Florida, this likely would be Bouchard’s team for the 2018 season. But no longer-term commitments have been made yet.
(Photos by Steven Domagala Photography; used with permission).