#OlympicDay – Rio tennis flashback

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There were a lot of big names missing at the Rio Olympics – especially on the men’s side.

But it was a fabulous event just the same.

Here’s a sample of pics taken during the tournament.

Among those featured are Eugenie Bouchard, Canadians Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, Venus Williams, Fabio Fognini, Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Daria Kasatkina, Andy Murray and many more.

There’s a special collection of epic Barbora Strycova moments in there, too. 

Enjoy.


 

Tangled up in (Nike Paramount) Blue

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In a few weeks, when Wimbledon rolls around, the end of the blue period will be upon us.

But until then, we are not yet done with the Nike Blue – Paramount Blue, officially – that was ubiquitous during the clay-court season.

It was a step above the yellow and green neons that fought a valiant battle for supremacy on the Nike players during the Indian Wells-Miami swing a couple of months ago.

But the French Open was absolutely overrun with it.

Here is just a small sample of the protagonists. They ranged from the juniors, to the pro players – even to legends like John McEnroe and Conchita Martiez.

There were two varieties for the women. The basic kit matched up with the shorts worn by the men.

Some of the women were chosen to wear the non-patterned Maria Sharapova kit : Russian juniors Olesya Pervushina and Anastasia Potapova, American Anastasia Anisimova, Croat Alja Tomljanovic and Canadian Françoise Abanda.

But the vestiges from the battling neons era remained.

Where are the blue socks?

It was all about the shoes and socks.

Nike

We asked several Nike players why the heck the shoes didn’t match. None of them had an answer; they just wear what they’ve given, or paid to wear.

But one did point this out: “The socks don’t match, either!”

There was a little of the green neon around the trim of the shirts – and of course the Swoosh. But the sock/shoe wardrobe malfunction was definitely out-of-the-box thinking.

They should all have been wearing Nadal’s shoes. And it would have been perfect.

Nike

As well, they are also 10 French Open, winning championship shoes. They could even have kept the personalized “Rafa” and No. 9 on the backs of them – just for good karma.

The only outfit that matched the shoes was the black version of the kit, worn by Genie Bouchard.

Nike

On a related note, the two junior girls’ finalists and all four girls in the doubles final were tangled up in Nike Paramount blue. So you can see where the future is headed once they all graduate to the pro tour.

Second match too much for ankle as Bouchard exits

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ROLAND GARROS – Genie Bouchard’s first-round match at the French Open was a tough three-setter. The next day, reality set in.

In the end, there just wasn’t enough time to heal the Grade 2 ankle sprain suffered the previous week. So while the Canadian was able to get through one match in Paris, she couldn’t recover in time for Round 2.

Bouchard went out Thursday to No. 17 seed Anastasia Sevastova of Latvia, 6-3, 6-0, and now will take the time to properly heal the ankle. With another Grand Slam in a month’s time, there’s a slightly better window now.

“I gave everything the last two weeks, but we always knew it would be tough. I’m happy that I gave myself a chance to play, and even won a match. Already, that was more than I’d hoped,” said Bouchard, who had a few opportunities in the first set against Sevastova Thursday before the match got away in a hurry. 

“I took it one day at a time, and you never know, so I still had hope today. But it was tough for me to practice (Wednesday),” she added. “It was tough to follow up (with a second match), with an injury like that. It affected my movement. But I was still going to take the court.”

A source who had a good look at the ankle when she first sprained it said it was not a pretty sight, and that it was amazing Bouchard even played the French Open at all. Diligent work with her team over a hectic 10 days got it to the point where she could compete – for one match, at least. There just wasn’t anything left for more.

Bouchard was fairly resigned to it all afterwards. If her post-match demeanor was at its very worst after her first-round loss in Miami in late March (a three-set defeat to Aussie Ashleigh Barty), her disposition has improved by leaps and bounds since then.

A few good results, and her sense that her tennis is coming around, have much to do with that. But as she wryly noted, she could use a little break here and there, too.

“The ankle could have happened during the period where I was losing every first round. But no – it happened after I played a good tournament in Madrid. And a week before Roland Garros too. So it’s a bit of bad luck. But I think everything happens for a reason, so I’ll just stay positive and continue,” she said. “There’s always highs after the lows. So I’m just waiting for the highs.”

Now that the French Open is over for her, Bouchard will consult with her doctor and take the time to heal the ankle properly – without the urgency of having a Grand Slam right around the corner. “I’ll take my time,” she said.

She has no regrets about making the effort to play, even if she couldn’t make a deep run. “It’s a Grand Slam, so you’ll always try,” she said.

Bouchard hasn’t made a final decision about whether or not to stay in Europe. The Mallorca event begins in 2 1/2 weeks. “I think this time, though, my heart is telling me to go back to North America,” she said. “I hope (to play Mallorca). I’d say more yes than no. I’ll do my rehab seriously, and we’ll see.”

(To see Bouchard’s one-on-one with TSN after her loss, click here. To see her French-language interview with RDS, click here)

After a slow start, Bouchard prevails

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ROLAND GARROS – For the first five games of Genie Bouchard’s first-round match against Risa Ozaki, there were questions. And doubts about her ankle. And nerves.

Could the right ankle, badly sprained in Germany last week, hold up? Would the lack of time on the practice court show? Would the fact that she hadn’t played a match for nearly three weeks, since Madrid, play against her?

The combination of all those things added up to 0-5. So something had to change.

Or else all that hard work and rehab and frustration, the only goal being to try to get fit in time to play the French Open, would have been for naught.

But what the 23-year-old Canadian realized after those first few games was that she could run.

And if she could run, she didn’t have overhit every ball in the hope that it would be a winner and the point would be over.

She could hang in there with her patented aggressiveness, along with a dose of consistency so necessary on the red clay.

That’s exactly what the 23-year-old Canadian did in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Ozaki that lifted a big weight from her shoulders and earned her a spot in the second round.

Bouchard will play No. 17 seed Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.

“I felt I started slow, for sure. I felt pretty nervous before the match, because I didn’t know what to expect with the ankle. And I felt like I was overplaying the first five games,” Bouchard said afterwards. “But I realized what was going on, and I was able to change it.”

Slow start, no pace

Ozaki gave Bouchard very little pace in the early going. And Bouchard overhit so many balls, made so many errors, that it was almost a flashback to her worst moments on the court the last few years.

But she held serve, then broke serve. And broke the ice. But 24 unforced errors in a set means you lose a set all on your own, without needing any help from your opponent.

Once she began pushing back on Ozaki from the beginning of the second set, the Japanese player was the one who no longer had any answers.

By the third set, Bouchard was looking less like the player who had lost in the first round in five consecutive WTA Tour events this winter, and more like the one who reached the semi-finals here three years ago.

“I just had a few nerves, and I wasn’t confident in my movement. But then I realized once I relaxed a bit and started being a bit more intense with my feet that I could do it.” Bouchard said. “I just think I had to trust myself more, trust my body, and trust my game, because I was trying to do a bit too much out there.

“Even not practicing too, too much the past week, my game is still there, so I just have to trust more,” she added.

To add to the fun – a cold

The ankle wasn’t the only thing that could have slowed Bouchard down. She also picked up a cold somewhere along the way, over the last two steamy hot Paris spring days.

She may well have caught it the way many of the people sniffling around the Roland Garros grounds did – the combination of heat and humidity outside, and too much air conditioning inside.

She was sucking a little wind during her warmup earlier in the day, and her throat was definitely a little dry. After some of the longer rallies, she definitely struggled a little bit. But she’ll have a day to recover before she meets Sevastova.

More improvement for Genie Bouchard

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ROLAND GARROS – Another day, more treatment, and more improvement in the state of Canadian Genie Bouchard’s right ankle.

Bouchard was out nice and early Sunday morning, playing a practice set with world No. 8 Johanna Konta of Great Britain. And it went well.

Here’s what it looked like.

Coach Thomas Hogstedt mentioned in a television interview afterwards that Bouchard had “won” – which is always a result to be taken with a grain of salt when you’re talking about practice sets.

But it was an unusual result for Bouchard; she might have the worst practice-set record, well, ever.

More important was the state of her movement, 10 days after suffering a Grade 2 ankle sprain on the practice court in Nürnberg, Germany. 

In a word? Better. Better than Saturday, which was better than Friday, etc. etc. But definitely far from 100 per cent.

The Canadian still has one more day to heal just a little more, before she makes her 2017 French Open debut against No. 72-ranked Risa Ozaki of Japan Tuesday.

Genie Bouchard will play the French Open

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ROLAND GARROS – In Genie Bouchard’s mind, the mind of a professional athlete who wants to compete, it was always a “go”.

But only in the last 24 hours or so was there much belief that the 23-year-old Canadian would indeed take the court for her first round at the French Open as she deals with a Grade 2 ankle sprain suffered last week in Nürnberg, Germany.

The injury forced her to pull out of that tournament.

“There’s no magic powder or special things you can do, it’s just time and treatment. Of course it’s always frustrating, but it happens, and it’s part of being a professional athlete,” Bouchard said Saturday, as she officially confirmed her participation. “I tried not to be negative about it, and just take it day by day.”

The injury occurred on a routine run for a drop shot. And Bouchard said the condition of the court was largely responsible for what happened. Indeed, Germany’s Laura Siegemund injured her knee on the very same court a few days later, and was forced to pull out of the French Open.

On Wednesday, Bouchard stood virtually still on the court as tennis balls were fed right into her wheelhouse. By Thursday morning, she was moving a little but still pulled up a little lame a few times. By Thursday afternoon, she hit a few volleys and overheads.

Friday morning, Bouchard almost looked ready to pull the plug; she appeared that discouraged. But by that afternoon, her movement was already better as she played practice games with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia.

Saturday morning during a practice with Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, it was better still.

Here’s what it looked like.

“I started with balls being fed to me, without movement and slowly I added movement, normal progression. The ankle is stable, so that’s a good thing,” Bouchard said. “In my head it was always yes. But I was taking it day by day this week in practice to really see. I think the last two days we had more confidence that I’d be able to play.”

That the women’s singles draw is wide open this year is an understatement. You would almost give Victoria Azarenka, who made a surprise appearance on Court Philippe-Chatrier Saturday during Kid’s Day and plans to return from maternity leave in just over two weeks, a legit shot at making the second week.

Bouchard, who plays No. 72 Risa Ozaki of Japan in the first round, isn’t thinking big picture at the moment.

“I’m just happy to play the tournament. I really wasn’t sure a week ago that I could play. So for me it’s already a victory. What’ll happen, I don’t know. But for sure, lots of players in the draw have a good chance,” she said.

will play
Bouchard beat Ozaki twice in the juniors (seen here after their 2012 Oz Open quarter-final) and once in the pros, and has a 3-0 record. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The Canadian’s half of the draw will play its first-round matches on Monday and Tuesday. With 12 of the matches to be scheduled Monday and the remaining 20 on Tuesday, she had a better-than-even chance of getting the latest start possible.

First-round play on both the men’s and women’s side begins Sunday.

As well, Bouchard made a request for a Tuesday start. Don’t ask, don’t get, right? Whether it was random luck or her request being granted, she will play Tuesday. And that gives her three more days to continue her progress.

Bouchard played Ozaki, who is a month younger, in the juniors on two occasions and won in straight sets. The last time came in the 2012 Australian Open quarter-finals.

More recently, the Canadian had a tough time with her Japanese opponent at Indian Wells last year. Ozaki began that first-round match well, got a lot of balls back into court. Bouchard had to recover from a set deficit to win.

The match wasn’t without its drama.

Here’s what she had to say after the victory.

Same game plan

The Canadian won’t want to be engaging in any long rallies, with the ankle one false move away from ending it all. But she said she won’t change her game plan.

“I think that in the match I won’t think about that. That’s what I’ve done my whole career. Usually I don’t feel much of anything during a match anyway, because of adrenaline and being concentrated on the match and nothing else, “ she said. “So I don’t want to change my game because of that.

“I’ll go, and play my game 100 per cent, and after that I’ll see if there’s anything I have to manage with my ankle.”

Would she have played, had it not been a Grand Slam tournament?

Tough question.

“But I think so. It’s feeling better and better,” she said. “I always want to play. It’s difficult for me not to play.”

Bad day turns better for Bouchard

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ROLAND GARROS – The decision on whether Genie Bouchard will give it a go at this year’s French Open has not yet officially been made.

That’s expected to come on Sunday.

But if you watched the 23-year-old Canadian practice Friday morning at the Annexe courts north of the main Roland Garros site, you’d have sworn by her body language that she was pulling the plug.

That’s how discouraged she looked.

It was a tough hour. About 40 minutes in, there was a long discussion with her team. Bouchard took the court again after that and took a few serves and returns. But it was as though the air had gone out of her balloon and she was just going through the motions.

She left the court quickly, alone, and was waiting in the courtesy car for awhile before her team joined her for the ride back to the main site.

Here’s a peek at what it looked like.

Bad day turns better

A few hours later, however, the sun peeked through the clouds.

For the first time since arriving at Roland Garros, Bouchard hit with another player. There was a hitting partner planned, but there was some sort of snafu and Bouchard ended up playing points with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

The Croat is not exactly the player you want to hit against if you’re looking for some rhythm. But at least Bouchard was able to simulate some of the movement she would need if she is actually to take the court for her first-round match.

She was done after about 45 minutes. But she looked much better than she did in the morning. Better yet, she seemed significantly more encouraged by the entire enterprise.

Here’s what that looked like.

All Team Genie can do for now is do as much treatment as possible – do everything possible to try to get her healthy enough to try to play. If it’s not enough, it’s not enough.

Friday’s singles draw had no bearing on whether she will play, we’re told. But it definitely could have been worse.

Good draw

Bouchard is scheduled to meet Risa Ozaki of Japan.

The two met once, at Indian Wells last year. And Bouchard came away with the victory after losing the first set 6-2. Ozaki is a player who will make Bouchard hit a lot of balls to win the point. But she’s not in any way a clay-court player.

Ozaki’s ranking of No. 72 is based in part on two good runs on hard courts this season. She went from the qualifying to the quarter-finals in Hobart, and from the qualifying to the fourth round in Miami. Without those two results, she’s barely in the top 100.

Her results during the clay-court season are nothing to frighten. But she will have one advantage Bouchard doesn’t have: she’s probably healthier.

Still, it’s another good Slam draw for Bouchard – if she can play.

bad day

 

 

Two practices for Bouchard as she tests ankle

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ROLAND GARROS – On the positive side, Genie Bouchard moved a whole lot more on her injured right ankle Thursday than she did in a practice session Wednesday.

On the so-so side, she still didn’t move much as she continues to deal with an injured right ankle.

And it was also clear to see that any false, unexpected move brought a quick cringe and a hop. Luckily, there weren’t too many of those in two practice sessions Thursday. Bouchard was careful. But she’s a long way from 100 per cent.

The morning session took place at the Annexe, a small club with four clay courts across the rue d’Auteuil and through the southern part of the Bois de Boulogne.

It’s not accessible to the public or much of the media (most of the practice courts aren’t – bucking the trend at most tournaments these days. They say it’s all about the “tranquility of the players.” But that’s a story for another day).

Those four courts in the upper right-hand corner are a charming little club in the Bois de Boulogne that is used for extra practice courts during Roland Garros.

With a sparring partner, Bouchard hit forehands and backhands and did some serves and returns.

She hit the entire hour. Well – nearly the entire hour.

There was a 10-minute period late in the session that was taken up with a long discussion involving coach Thomas Högstedt and trainer Cassiano Costa.

But then she got right back to it.

Second afternoon session

Two hours later, Bouchard was back on the practice court. This time, it was Court 12, in the area of the Roland Garros site behind Court Suzanne Lenglen.

There were qualifying matches going on all around. There were lineups to get into all of the nearby courts where there is controlled access. But no more than two dozen people were watching her for most of the hour.

This time, Bouchard moved even more. She also hit volleys and a few overheads. And again, she practiced for the full hour.

Here are some pics from both sessions.

By the afternoon, Bouchard’s chiropractor/physio from Montreal had arrived, and was on court with her. The same chiro traveled with Bouchard for periods in the latter half of 2014, including the WTA Tour finals in Singapore.

No doubt the Canadian wanted someone who knows her, and her body, to oversee things. The Canadian is in a race against the clock to try to play the second Grand Slam of the season.

The women’s singles draw will be made Friday morning. At this point, it seems Bouchard will be in it. But it remains impossible to really predict whether or not she will end up taking the court for her first-round match.

No doubt the revealing of her first opponent may have an effect on things. But maybe not. The biggest challenge will be trying to step up the pace exponentially to match intensity, without having a setback that could impact the grass-court season.

Bouchard likely to make RG decision Saturday

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ROLAND GARROS – On the plus side, Genie Bouchard got out onto the practice court Wednesday.

She had been scheduled to hit in the small annexe courts, up near the Bois de Boulogne. But she ended up on Court Suzanne Lenglen in the middle of the qualifying zone. So some fans did get to see her hit.

A couple of the young boys waiting for Richard Gasquet to take the court after her weren’t too impressed. They had no clue who she was. They kept asking her, “Madame, une balle s’il vous plaît!” (Ma’am, give us a ball, please!)

Hitting was about all Bouchard did. There was no running, and Bouchard was careful not to land on or push off much with the injured right ankle.

As is the case with Simona Halep, who has an injury to the same right ankle, she lands on her left foot after the serve. So both were able to hit serves Wednesday, but neither moved a whole lot.

Here’s what it looked like:

The Canadian was in remarkably good spirits considering she’s in a race against the clock to be fit enough to play in the second Grand Slam tournament of the season.

It’s always better to laugh even when you might feel like crying – a good way to get through life’s trials.

Decision time looms

Bouchard is continuing with intensive treatment on the ankle. She’s likely to make the decision whether or not to give it a go on Saturday.

The singles draws will be made Friday. So that means she may be in the women’s singles draw whether or not she plays. Because she’s unseeded, even if she does pull out afterwards, it won’t mean the draw will have to be reshuffled.

Halep was one of the favourites to win the title before the ankle injury suffered during the singles final in Rome last week. She’ll be the No. 3 seed. Should she decide not to play, they would have to re-do the seeds and shuffle things around if she makes the call later than Friday morning.

These two are not the only players who have question marks around them as the tournament gets closer.

After losing in Lyon Wednesday, Juan Martin del Potro said back and shoulder pains have him pondering the possibility of missing the French Open – again.

With his series of wrist surgeries, and his decision to skip the clay-court swing a year ago as he was coming back to action, the 2009 US Open champion hasn’t played at Roland Garros since … 2012.

Hard to believe.

Everyone’s previews and predictions are going to have to wait until all these question marks become exclamation points. Otherwise, they might be out of date before the tournament even begins.

Ankle issue may keep Halep out of RG

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ROLAND GARROS – Genie Bouchard isn’t the only player whose presence at this year’s French Open is in doubt because of an ankle injury.

Simona Halep, the form player coming in after a title in Madrid and a final in Rome, also is a big question mark.

On her Instagram, the Romanian says the doctors tell her she is “50-50” after tearing a ligament in her ankle. Halep took a tumble during the final against Elina Svitolina. Although she kept playing, it was clear she had suffered an injury.

She arrived in Paris early for treatment, as did Bouchard, who turned her ankle during a practice session in Nürnberg. She had to withdraw from the tournament on Monday.

No details on the grade of Halep’s ankle sprain, or what the exact definition of “torn” is. But Halep said there was improvement since Sunday.

Halep

For Bouchard, there reportedly hasn’t been much improvement in the last few days.

Bouchard

Unless things take a turn for the worse, it’s likely both will wait until the last minute to make a final decision. 

Kvitova to announce Friday

Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova will hold a press conference Friday. She will announce whether she will participate in this year’s French Open.

Kvitova had all the ligaments in the fingers of her left hand (her hitting hand) damaged after a terrifying home invasion last December. She had surgery and was optimistic she would be back for Wimbledon. She was hopeful, perhaps on the wishful-thinking side, that she might be able to play in Paris.

The players who are seeded fairly high in the French Open qualifying, who manage to get through their second-round matches, certainly are going to be watching this attentively. There look to be several lucky-loser spots opening up in the main draw in the next few days.