MONTREAL – Canada’s World Group II Fed Cup playoff tie hadn’t even begun, when the first bad news hit.
No. 2 Françoise Abanda, already slowed a little by a knee issue, was doing some final warmup exercises just a few minutes before the teams were to take the court for the opening ceremony.
And then, she slipped and fell.
Abanda hit her head on the court. Immediately there were a half-dozen Tennis Canada personnel around her, everyone looking concerned.
It wasn’t long before the decision was made to put in 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu as a last-minute substitute. And Abanda – her head still hurting several hours later – went back into the locker room.
That’s a tough ask for anyone, never mind an inexperienced 17-year-old. Planning to sit courtside with some figurative popcorn, Andreescu expected to work out her cheering muscles and nothing else on Saturday.
Without a proper warmup, or eating at the right time, or all the myriad preparations that go into a match, she took on world No. 41 Lesia Tsurenko.
Andreescu played brilliantly, taking the first set. But by the middle of the second set, she began to tire. And by the beginning of the third set, you could see her shaking out her leg and trying to fight off cramps.
A few games later, she collapsed in a heap. A cramp that began in her calf moved up into the rest of her leg, and she was really in pain.
She was carted off the court in a wheelchair, forced to retire from the match.
Two down, Bouchard up next
It was left to Genie Bouchard to salvage a tie on the day.
And she did, with an impressive 6-2, 7-5 win over world No. 78 Kateryna Bondarenko. It was a victory that never felt as though it might get away from her, despite a couple of nervous moments when she was close to the finish line.
Here’s what it looked like.
Early in the match, Bouchard whacked her left hand on a towel display installed just to the left of her bench. Running at a good clip, she tried to brake, using the left hand, and was left in some pain.
She said that every backhand she hit for the rest of the match hurt – a lot.
But she could still joke with captain Sylvain Bruneau about there being “Three down, one to go.”
Here’s what she said about it.
The release from the ITF about Abanda’s injury said she had a “pero-orbital contusion” – medical speak for a black eye.
But she didn’t, even though the eye was swollen.
While the medical personnel were monitoring Abanda through the day, they certainly couldn’t rule out a concussion. And that’s scary, especially if there’s even a desire on Abanda’s part to try to play Sunday in the fourth singles rubber.
As for Andreescu, she’s likely to be awfully sore where the cramps hit.
And there’s no predicting how Bouchard’s hand will feel when she wakes up on Sunday morning.
Here’s Bruneau with the medical report.
Dabrowski to the rescue?
You would expect Bouchard to give it a go in the first match of the day Sunday against Tsurenko.
After that, Canada will either be in a position to clinch, or in a position where it needs a victory to stay alive.
Gabriela Dabrowski, a fine singles player but one who has put that discipline aside for the most part to focus on her top-10 doubles career, is ready to go in singles if needed.
If it gets to a fifth and deciding rubber, Bruneau may have no other options left but to put Bouchard and Dabrowski on for the doubles.
It may be a sleepless night for a few people on the Canadian side.