INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – The Miami Open announced its main-draw and qualifying-draw wild cards Wednesday.
And it confirms, as she indicated following her defeat at Indian Wells, that Victoria Azarenka will follow up with a second tournament in Miami.
Azarenka was given a wild card along with Serena Williams, who has won the event eight times.
American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who was the No. 1 doubles player in the world before a horrible knee injury suffered at Wimbledon kept her out seven months, has also been given a singles wild card.
Amanda Anisimova, the 16-year-old who reached the fourth round this week at Indian Wells (and is a client of IMG, which owns the Miami event) also gets one along with ITF junior world champion Whitney Osuigwe, junior Wimbledon champion Claire Liu, and Bernarda Pera, the Croatian-turned-American who impressed at the Australian Open in January.
Ajla Tomljanovic, the Croatian-turned-Australian who is based in Boca Raton, Fla., also received a wild card. Roberta Vinci, who is retiring this spring, was given a wild card into the qualifying tournament.
Men’s wild cards skew young
On the men’s side, the wild cards are definitely Next-Gen – and international.
Christopher Eubanks (USA), Nicola Kuhn (Spain), Mikael Ymer (Sweden), Miomir Kecmanovic (Serbia) and Nicolas Jarry (Chile) all received wild cards.
Notable among those who did not receive free passes is Miami resident Genie Bouchard, who did get one this week at Indian Wells.
Currently ranked No. 116, Bouchard has never played the qualifying in Miami. She was in the main draw there from her first appearance in 2013, when she was ranked No. 123 and taking her first steps as a pro. That year, she did receive a wild card.
Also notable is the absence of former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, who announced she was coming out of retirement and hoped to make her return in Miami.
That, now, will not happen. Bartoli does hold another wild card in Monterrey, Mexico the following week.
Here’s the compete list.
Men’s Main Draw
Nicola Kuhn Mikael Ymer Chris Eubanks Miomir Kecmanovic Nicolas Jarry
Women’s Main Draw
Serena Williams Victoria Azarenka Claire Liu Amanda Anisimova Whitney Osuigwe Bernarda Pera Bethanie Mattek-Sands Ajla Tomljanovic
Joao Souza Casper Ruud Axel Geller Elias Ymer Patrick Kypson
Ann Li Antonia Lottner Katie Boulter Tereza Smitkova Allie Kiick Xiyu Wang Roberta Vinci Emiliana Arango
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – World Team Tennis, the exhibition league founded by Billie Jean King that takes place after Wimbledon, held its draft Tuesday.
And among the faces this summer will be 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova, who is in the fourth round of the women’s singles at this week’s BNP Paribas Open.
The league plays for the last two weeks in July, with the final in early August. It’s an opportunity for a lot of lower-ranked players and doubles specialists to pick up some extra cash. And look for other names to perhaps join the various teams for a couple of matches during the short season.
The 2017 champions are the Orange County Breakers, who defeated the San Diego Aviators 22-18 at the La Costa Resort and Spa just outside San Diego.
This year, Jack Sock returns to the Springfield Lasers. As well, Genie Bouchard will be back with the New York Empire and Venus Williams will make a few appearances with the Washington Kastles.
Here are the draft selections, including the “franchise” type players each team is allowed to protect before the draft begins.
The first overall pick was by the Kastles. The D.C.-based team selected Tennys Sandgren to head to the nation’s capital.
Venus Williams (protected) Mike and Bob Bryan(protected) Madison Brengle (protected)
Tennys Sandgren (1st overall pick)
Sloane Stephens (protected) Taylor Townsend (protected) Fabrice Martin (protected)
Jack Sock (protected) Abigail Spears (protected)
New York Empire
Mardy Fish (protected) John Isner (protected) Genie Bouchard (protected) Neal Skupski (protected)
Maria José Martínez Sánchez
San Diego Aviators
Naomi Broady (protected)
(UPDATE: The two sides reached a settlement Friday, interrupting the proceeding for several hours to come to terms after the judge refused to insist Bouchard’s financial information remain undiscussed outside the courtroom).
The first part of the Genie Bouchard vs. USTA court case – the least suspenseful part, really – is over.
On Thursday at a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, NY, a jury deliberated less than an hour before it found the U.S. Tennis Association negligent in connection to the accident the 23-year-old Canadian suffered in the women’s locker room at the US Open nearly 2 1/2 years ago.
The seven men and women determined the USTA bore 75 per cent of the fault for the incident, with Bouchard assuming the other 25 per cent.
That part was not really a surprise.
Bouchard slipped on a training-room floor at about 11 p.m. on the night of Sept. 4, 2017, trying to pass through the dark room on her way to the ice bath room after a long and victorious day on the courts.
Believing that no other players would need to be in the area that night, the cleaning crew applied a caustic cleaning agent called Oasis 299, which made the floor slick. Add to that the relative darkness of the room and Bouchard’s unfamiliarity with the facilities (she tried to find a light switch, but fell backwards and suffered a concussion before she could do so). It was always going to be more the USTA’s fault than her own.
Bouchard on the witness stand
Bouchard testified on Wednesday. The only witness Thursday for the defense was former WTA Tour trainer Kristie Stahr, whom the USTA positioned as the only employee Bouchard informed that she would be returning to the locker room after her press conference.
(Bouchard’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, posited that it was evident Bouchard would be returning, as she had left her belongings strewn around the area near her locker).
former WTA trainer Kristy Stahr testified for 110 mins in a very testy appearance in which she refuted @geniebouchard contention she was allowed alone into the trainers room. Genie herself only took 75 mins to testify.
So Bouchard and her attorneys won the short program.
The more significant and complicated long program begins Friday.
The real question in this whole case, which has taken forever with the parties unable to come to a financial settlement before the trial began despite numerous attempts, will be how much the jury might award Bouchard in damages.
Whatever that final number is, it will be reduced by 25 per cent because of the share of the fault attributed to her. Which is something the jury members will factor in, assuming they find her case compelling and her personality sympathetic.
Bouchard’s lawyers dropped the “punitive damages” component of the lawsuit last summer. So the claim for damages, as indicated in the documents put forth earlier this month by the plaintiff, will be as follows:
1. Past pain and suffering
2. Future pain and suffering
3. Past lost income/earnings capacity
a) This element of damages includes lost prize money, lost appearance fees, lost potential endorsement deals, lost seeding, lost ranking, lost bonus points, and lost end-of-year ranking bonuses.
4. Future lost income/earnings capacity
a) This element of damages includes lost prize money, lost potential endorsement deals, lost seeding, lost ranking, lost bonus points, and lost end-of-year bonuses.
5. Past medical expenses
6. Future medical expenses
Claims “speculative”, defense says
Per the joint pre-trial order filed last December, the USTA will claim that Bouchard “failed to mitigate her damages”.
“To the extent that Plaintiff alleges that she would have won prize money allotted to the winner of the women’s singles bracket and/or other competitions at the stated tournaments in Japan and China and/or other tennis tournaments in the future, or to the extent that Plaintiff alleges that she has lost, or will lose, commercial endorsements, but for the incident of September 4, 2015 complained of, Defendants state that such claims would be entirely speculative and Defendants will hold the Plaintiff to strict proof thereof. Moreover, Plaintiff was able to secured additional commercial endorsements since the incident of September 4, 2015. There is no competent evidence that Plaintiff lost income and endorsements as a result of the hiatus in her competing due to the alleged incident at issue herein.
“Plaintiff refused offers of medical attention and assistance made to her after she complained to attendants in the women’s locker room of having fallen. Instead, she left the premises.
“Lastly, to the extent that Plaintiff claims on-going and permanent physical injuries and sequelae to date, such a claim is inconsistent with Plaintiff’s own admissions in various forms of social media and public commentary. An injured party is under a duty to make a reasonable effort to minimize the consequential damages, and if such reasonable effort is not made, he or she will be barred from recovering those damages which result from such failure.”
The USTA will point out that since the accident, Bouchard secured a new sponsorship deal with Colgate.
Sponsorship plate already full
In her particular situation, it will be challenging to prove that the incident cost her additional sponsorship avenues, since we’re told she already had filled the six “sponsorship categories” player agents usually refer to when looking to market a player.
There weren’t a lot of openings to begin with. And since the incident, Bouchard renewed with her biggest sponsor, Nike, on a five-year deal and added Colgate toothpaste as a sponsor
But, of course, the 2 1/2 years of preliminaries for this case have all been about that dollar amount.
We’re told that the original figure from Morelli was around $50 million US. That was before the part of the claim involving punitive damages was removed last fall, so the number will come down significantly.
Still, that high number as a starting point likely didn’t help the two sides come to settlement terms.
But it doesn’t much matter what Morelli will ask. What matters is what the jury decides Bouchard deserves.
Even before, Bouchard struggling
The quest to prove that the Canadian’s tennis career and endorsement potential were irreparably harmed to the tune of multiple millions of dollars is made more difficult by the fact that it wasn’t as though she were a top-10 player, posting great results, only go to into a spiral after the incident.
That would be open and shut. But it wasn’t the case.
A year before the Sept. 4, 2015 fall, Bouchard reached the Wimbledon singles final and was on her way to (briefly) being the No. 5-ranked player in the world.
The Tour finals were a disaster. Bouchard was routed in her three round-robin matches to end the season.
Her relationship with longtime coach Nick Saviano unraveled. And she began a carousel of coaching changes, support personnel changes, agent changes and a long stretch of losing on court.
A year later, a promising sign of recovery
The 2015 season began with promise (although without a new coach in place) as she reached the quarterfinals in Australia. But then, Bouchard struggled to win a match. Her won-loss record between Melbourne and that year’s US Open was five wins, 16 losses.
Her ranking having dropped to No. 25, Bouchard was having a renaissance in New York – notably in her three-set victory over Dominika Cibulkova on the day of the incident.
But while she was in good form, her next singles match at the US Open was to be against the Italian Roberta Vinci.
Vinci, a veteran with a less-than-straightforward game to face, had just beaten Bouchard 6-1 6-0 the previous week at a tuneup event in New Haven, Connecticut, and ended up reaching the US Open singles final after defeating Serena Williams.
Bouchard played just one more match the rest of the year, and was forced to retire when she began feeling the after-effects of the concussion on court. She returned a couple of months later to start the 2016 season and reached the final of two smaller tournaments in the first two months of the season. But she never won more than two matches in a row the rest of the year.
None of that, though, seemed to have affected Bouchard’s public marketability, although given her struggle to win tennis matches, she’s not nearly as ubiquitous on the tennis scene as she was. But the Canadian has continued to receive wild cards into tournaments despite her falling ranking, which currently stands at No. 116.
No Challenger for Bouchard next week
As it happens, Bouchard had entered a lower-level event next week at Indian Wells, California, a $125,000 Challenger for which she had not even earned entry into the main draw based on her current ranking. That ranking also would not allow her to play a WTA Tour event she has enjoyed in the past, in Acapulco.
She would, in theory, be playing the qualifying rounds at that event over the weekend. But now with the trial ongoing, that won’t be possible.
Bouchard’s 24th birthday is on Sunday.
That will mean that she’s headed into the next big WTA Tour event at Indian Wells, a Premier 5-level tournament, with no match play at all since a small event the week after the Australian Open in early February. And again, because of her current ranking, Bouchard would have to play the qualifying there for the first time since her first appearance in the desert, five years ago.
In an ironic sort of way, the actual trial for the damage suffered back in 2015 is affecting her current prospects more than the injury itself.
Lost future income to be determined
The challenge for the Canadian’s lawyers will be to prove that the locker-room incident, the concussion she suffered, were game-changers in a career that had undoubtedly been headed into the stratosphere of the multiple millions of dollars she’ll claim in damages and potential lost wages.
Among other issues, the defense no doubt will point to the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was just released last week, and the fact that Bouchard appeared in it for the second consecutive year – both years after the incident. According to court documents, the defense also plans to use a “Bouchard Timeline of Activities and Competition from Social Media, Public Media and Press”, and her many and myriad posting on social media.
That is, unless a motion filed a few weeks ago by the plaintiffs to bar any mention of her social media in court is granted by the judge.
Among the witnesses listed on the defense’s side is former top-10 player Alicia Molik, currently the captain of the Australian Fed Cup team.
Alicia Molik for the defense
It’s unknown if Molik will actually be testifying in person. She already has sworn a deposition.
From the court documents:
“Ms. Molik is expected to testify about Plaintiff’s play during the year before the accident, including recurring injuries, change of coach, pressure of success and decline in confidence, Plaintiff’s probable performance and results at the 2015 US Open had she not withdrawn, and Plaintiffs probable results at the post-2015 US Open Asia tournaments, as well as other areas and topics identified and discussed in her report.”
In the end, the jurors will have to choose one side or the other.
Will they opt for the the huge, rather unsympathetic, money-making entity that is the USTA?
Or will they choose Bouchard, who clearly was done wrong in that locker room, but whose public prominence in many quarters (even if all the jurors said they’d never heard of her) seems to have gone on, undeterred, in the intervening years.
They will have to establish that Bouchard’s career was without question headed back on an upward trajectory based on not much more than a couple of singles victories that week in New York. And that she could be even more well-known (and well-compensated) than she already appears to be, were it not for that.
Actually, they don’t have to establish it. They just have to get the jurors to buy it.
They well might. While it’s impossible to prove the incident changed the course of Bouchard’s career, it’s equally impossible to say it didn’t.
Even if she does get a multimillion-dollar settlement, even Bouchard will never really know for sure.
On Friday, faced with an opponent outside the top 150 and a great opportunity to reach the semifinal of a WTA Tour event for the first time since Sydney a year ago, the weight of expectation kicked in – again.
That’s a familiar storyline with Bouchard the last few years, perhaps the biggest reason among many that she has struggled to post consistent results.
The 23-year-old Canadian put up a stinker of a performance against the surprisingly impressive Yafan Wang of China.
The 6-4, 6-0 loss, it seems, will allow her to make her Super Bowl date in Minneapolis on time.
Those expectations – none heavier than her own – were in evidence from the start.
Not only did she run everything down, she put herself in better positions defensively. And that paid dividends, cumulatively, by the end of the match.
On Friday, the feet were frozen. Solid. She was taking shortcuts with her footwork. And when Bouchard does that, the errors start flying off her racket.
She had eight winners against Wang. And she made 26 unforced errors.
After breaking Wang when the 23-year-old Chinese player served for the first set at 5-3, she dropped her own serve at love to give up the first set. And she didn’t win another game after that.
Nervous, tight performance
At times, during the second set, she played as though she had a plane to catch.
Bouchard never called out coach/hitting partner Robbye Poole, who had been full of positivity and sound tactical and technical advice in her first two victories.
She smacked her racket on the court at one point, the way she had often done a year or two ago even if she’s done a better job of keeping her cool in recent months.
Bouchard may well show up as planned, laughing and having a great time and posing for photos and looking as though she doesn’t have a care in the world, at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis on Sunday with her infamous Twitter date.
With her elimination Friday, she now will have time to travel there.
And if that happens Internet will make great hay in light of her effort on Friday. The optics will not be great.
It will be a three-day period that will highlight the best and worse of Bouchard’s on- and off-court life during her three-year slump.
Not much tennis coming up
After that, the Canadian will several more weeks without any competitive tennis on the docket.
Bouchard eschewed her country’s Fed Cup tie in Romania next weekend for an exhibition match next Sunday. against American Sloane Stephens, that will kick off the New York Open ATP Tour event.
And then – barring a last-minute settlement, which still seems a possibility – she will make her next court appearance (pardon the pun) in New York City.
Her lawsuit against the USTA, filed in Oct. 2015 in the wake of the locker-room accident that left her with a concussion, finally goes to trial.
If it wraps up in time, Bouchard is entered in $125K Oracle Challenger Series event the week before the BNP Paribas Open (the week of Feb. 26). That tournament also will be held at the Indian Wells venue.
With her current ranking, Bouchard will have to qualify at the Indian Wells main event, something she has not done there since her first appearance back in 2013 (she lost to Elina Svitolina in the first qualifying round).
It’s hardly grounds for massive celebration by Genie Bouchard fans.
But the 23-year-old Canadian has put together back-to-back victories on the WTA Tour for the first time since … that epic week in Madrid last May
Bouchard was on a mission that week, as she defeated Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber back-to-back.
And with a tight 7-5, 7-5 victory over Ana Bogdan in the second round of the Taiwan Open Thursday, she’s into the quarterfinals.
There, she’ll face Yafan Wang of China, ranked No. 152.
“It was a really tough match. She has a really solid game. I think we were both trying to be aggressive,trying to go for it. But I just had to keep fighting. even after losing all those match points, I just had to keep fighting,” Bouchard said during an on-court interview.
The adrenaline was still kicking in; she was talking a mile a minute.
Bouchard is in Taiwan with hitting partner Robbye Poole acting as official coach for the week.
And his on-court demeanour has been solid. Poole has been positive. But he also has been imparting a few key pieces of advice that – whether Bouchard implements them or not – are still excellent tips.
“After my first match, my coach wasn’t too happy with me, so we stayed and practiced really late. Hopefully we won’t have to practice tonight,” she said.
Back-to-back wins hard to come by
Bouchard began the week ranked No. 114. It is her third consecutive week outside the top 100 – and her first stay there since all the way back in 2013, when she jumped into the top 100 for the first time after going from the qualifying to the quarterfinals in Charleston.
To put that in perspective, Bouchard won five matches that week alone. Coming into this week, she had won just four singles matches going all the back to that week in Madrid last year.
Bogdan, who is 25, jumped into the top 100 this week for the first time in her career. And she was in good form coming in.
The match was a roller-coaster, with a total of 25 break points and 12 breaks of serve. Bouchard had seven of them – one extra in each set. And that was the difference.
She began the match hitting beautifully – hard, consistent. But then the two players began gifting breaks to each other. Bouchard served for the first set at 5-4, to no avail. She closed it out on the second attempt. At one point in that set, there were four consecutive games in which the server quickly went down love-40, and fought an unsuccessful battle to avoid the service break.
Bouchard went down an early break in the second set. A long game at 1-2, after getting the break back, resulted in a hold. And it was a key hold of serve.
A nervy finish
The Canadian had three match points on Bogdan’s serve at 3-5 in the second set. On the first two, she did all the right things, but Bogdan came up with the answer.
On the third one, she dumped a backhand down the line into the net, and began muttering to herself. She served for it at 5-4 – but, of course, was broken.
She went down love-30 the second time she served for the match. But this time, with three solid first serves, she closed it out.
The level of tennis Bouchard displayed Thursday was a bump up from her recent form. There were dips, to be sure. But Bouchard’s legs never stopped moving. And she never stopped running down every single ball.
Plan B efforts improving
Often, she was rewarded for her defensive efforts. And perhaps she is slowly developing a bit of confidence in her ability to stay in matches that way. The quality of ball she produced when pushed to the corners was superior to what she has been coming up with the last few years.
As well, she was aggressive in coming to the net. A nice percentage of the points ended with swing volleys, a few with conventional volleys or good smashes.
The key now is to keep up the level against Wang, who is two months younger and ranked a fair bit lower. The opportunity in Bouchard’s section of the draw, with both the No. 1 seed Shuai Peng and the No. 8 Pauline Parmentier mowed down before Bouchard got to them, is not one she should waste.
Getting to the semifinal will still not ensure Bouchard returns to the top 100. But she would be close.
Click below to see excerpts of Bouchard’s press conference after her first-round win.
Genie Bouchard’s plans to attend Sunday’s Super Bowl with her Twitter date will, in a best-case scenario, be pre-empted by tennis.
The 23-year-old took a step towards that Tuesday at the Taiwan Open, advancing to the second round after opponent Zhu Lin of China retired with a back injury.
After a horrendous first set, Bouchard bounced back in the second and, after an early break of serve in the third, won the match 1-6, 7-5, 2-0 when Zhu stopped.
The Chinese player had a medical timeout to have her lower back worked on, and also had the trainer on during multiple changeovers to have it treated some more.
Bouchard will play Ana Bogdan of Romania in the second round on Thursday.
The Canadian had stayed on in Melbourne after being eliminated in the second round of singles by eventual finalist Simona Halep. There was a two-week gap before the Taiwan Open, which gave Bouchard a wild card.
Winning debut for coach Poole
The tournament marks the WTA Tour coaching debut of Robbye Poole, who does have coaching experience at the junior and college level but whose professional experience is limited to his 2 1/2-year stint as Serena Williams’s hitting partner.
Poole had some useful advice – including pointing out an obvious fact that Bouchard hadn’t picked up on, that Zhu’s backhand side was stronger than her forehand side. He also dealt with choosing a tighter string tension, as the ball was flying off Bouchard’s rackets earlier in the match.
He also suggested she change the pace, use her still uncomfortable-looking slice and some high balls to throw off her opponent’s timing.
“I can’t ****ing play tennis”
Poole also had some words of encouragement as Bouchard bemoaned her play, whispering it during the coaching consult as both were more than aware that the conversation was miked.
(Despite the low tone, the F-bombs could clearly be heard).
“I just find I can’t ***ing play tennis. … I can’t ***ing play tennis,” she said. “How come I’ve been practicing so great, and I come on the court and do this?”
That’s one of the front-burner questions that has gone unanswered in recent years for Bouchard.
Not to single her out; there are a lot of players who don’t come close to duplicating their practice level in matches. There is, of course, no opponent on the practice court.
But the Canadian did cut down the errors and improve the body language in the second set. Meanwhile, her opponent went in the opposite direction, until she abruptly stopped play.
Sometimes a lucky break can create some momentum. And Bouchard certainly hasn’t had a lot of breaks during her extended rough patch.
Bogdan, ranked a career-high No. 89, upset No. 11 seed Kristina Mladenovic and posted a comeback win over Yulia Putintseva before losing in the third round of the Australian Open to Madison Keys. She upset No. 1 seed Shuai Peng in the first round in Taiwan, removing that obstacle from Bouchard’s path.
Super Bowl date in doubt
Earlier this month, Bouchard accepted an invitation to Sunday’s Super Bowl on Twitter from NFL Canada. And she quickly conscripted her Twitter date, John Goehrke, into joining her.
The humidity will be low – 15 per cent. So the magic formula that kicks in the heat rule may not happen. If it does, that would close the roofs on the three main stadiums. But more crucially, and less well-publicized, is that it also would stop play on all the outside courts.
Between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., the temperature is expected to be 34C or higher. And that doesn’t factor in how much hotter than that it actually is on court.
So, in short – a scorcher. Followed by another one on Friday.
Halep suffered a Grade 1 sprain to her ankle during her first-round win Tuesday. So the state of that ankle may play a role in the outcome of the match against Bouchard.
The Canadian looked solid in a straight-sets win over Océane Dodin in the first round
 Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
The two met twice within a two-month period last season. And both encounters were rather dramatic.
The first one came at the US Open – Sharapova’s first appearance there after she served her 15-month doping suspension. The Russian reached the fourth round, where Sevastova surprisingly ended her run.
In the fall, in the first round of Beijing, the two played a crazy match – 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6,(7). This time, Sharapova was the winner.
 Ashleigh Barty (AUS) vs. Camila Giorgi (ITA)
The Italian banger disappeared from the Tour the last few months of 2017, as she had reoccurring back issues. Her last match of the season was a first-round loss to Magdalena Rybarikova in the the first round of the US Open.
So she has sort of come out of nowhere to have a solid start to 2018.
Giorgi went from the qualifying through to the semifinals in Sydney last week – upsetting Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Sloane Stephens along the way.
In Barty’s favor is that she has already played a hard hitter on Rod Laver Arena at night. She needed three sets to beat Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the first round. But at least she got used to the pace she can expect from Giorgi.
Men’s Matches to Watch
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Gaël Monfils (FRA)
It’s a tough one for a second-rounder. But that’s because Monfils’s ranking currently stands at No. 39.
Before he decided to take a last-minute wild card into Doha (and won the event), it was No. 46.
Djokovic may well find a sterner test Thursday than he did in his first round, when he had little trouble dispatching American Donald Young.
And he gets a Rod Laver Arena assignment for his second round, more befitting a six-time champion even though he’s only the No. 14 seed this year.
NOT in Monfils’ favor is the fact that his record against Djokovic is … 0-14.
 Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) vs. Karen Khachanov (RUS)
This is a heavyweight battle between two imposing human beings.
It might have been expected to be a closer battle earlier last season, when Khachanov really seemed to be a star on the rise. But he plateaued, and in the process ended things with the coach he’d had through his transition to the pros, Galo Blanco.
Del Potro started his season a week later than many. But he hoisted himself back into the top 10 with a finals appearance in Auckland last week, losing to Roberto Bautista-Agut.
In the quarterfinals of that event, del Potro defeated Khachanov 7-6, 6-3. Sounds about right. Add a set or two.
Hyeon Chung (KOR) vs. Daniil Medvedev (RUS)
This is a Next-Gen rematch between two of the players who competed in the special event in Milan last November.
Medvedev decided to start his 2018 season at a Challenger event in Playford, Australia where he lost in the first round to No. 379 Marinko Matosevic. His ranking would have gotten him into the main draw of pretty much all of the pre-Australian Open events, so it’s possible that someone forgot to enter him into anything early in 2018.
But Medvedev made up for lost time in Sydney, where he qualified and won the tournament.
Chung and Medvedev played in the semifinals of the Milan event, with Chung prevailing in five (short-format) sets.
A few months later, at Wimbledon, it was the Canadian who came out on top in the semifinals, to reach her first and only Grand Slam final.
But there were certainly some mitigating circumstances. Halep was a long way from 100 per cent.
She had suffered a thigh strain in the third round and it was bad enough that she had it heavily wrapped even in practice.
The two warmed up for the match at the same time, at Aorangi Park. And Halep barely moved even then.
Bouchard might have won the match anyway, as high as her confidence was at the time. But it was emblematic of the kind of serendipity that followed Bouchard around like a loyal puppy dog during that brief period of her career.
By then, things were already getting complicated in the Bouchard camp. Longtime coach Nick Saviano took his leave shortly after the event, in which Bouchard didn’t win any of her three matches in pool play. Her hitting partner at the time, Tom Burn, also was gone in short order. Things were fairly tense.
Halep won that one, 6-2, 6-3.
There was some added intrigue for this one after Halep rolled her ankle during her first-round win over Aussie teenager Destanee Aiava.
Halep said afterwards it was about the fifth time she had rolled that ankle. It’s a vulnerable area, which is why she always has both ankles taped.
It didn’t swell up, but the Romanian said it usually didn’t; but the ligaments take a beating.
“I felt a big pain on court … I just want to wait for tomorrow to see how I wake up. From my experience, I feel that is nothing broken, but still the pain was big. I have to see with the doctors,” she said Tuesday.
Will the ankle be a factor?
Halep is still wearing adidas shoes although, now that her contract with them has expired, the logos are whited out or obscured. So it wasn’t because of a sudden change of footwear after four years.
Bouchard put together a solid match against Océane Dodin in the first round. But Halep is at a different level and in recent situations similar to this one, that big opportunity has created big-opportunity nerves that haven’t allowed Bouchard ot seize the moment.
If you overthink this a little, the ankle roll can create a sort of parallel with that match at Wimbledon back in 2014. But only if Halep hasn’t fully recovered. And nobody wishes that on her.
MELBOURNE, Australia – Genie Bouchard’s last Grand Slam singles win was all the way back at last year’s French Open.
And in nine of the 11 tournaments she has played since then, she has bowed out in the first round – including at Wimbledon and the US Open.
So the smile on the 23-year-old Canadian’s face after she took care of 21-year-old Océane Dodin of France in two fairly tight sets – 6-3, 7-6 (5) – no doubt was a welcome sight for her family, friends, support team and most of all herself.
The original Genie Army, always loyal, were on hand with their chants and positive vibes.
“I haven’t played a big match, or a match with that many people rooting for me in awhile. So it was very, very special,” Bouchard said. “It’s been awhile since I had a win, so it gives me confidence. I felt good this week in practice. Before the match I was nervous, for sure, but I had a little more confidence than in my tournaments at the end of last year, so I feel like I’m on the right road,” she added.
In Dodin, Bouchard faced a hard hitter with a big serve who still hasn’t harnessed that power to achieve the consistency she needs through a whole match.
Even at her best – and Dodin is not at her best right now, not having played since mid-September because of a recurring dizziness issue – she’ll hit a couple of screaming winners, followed by a couple of balls so far out they don’t even need a lines person to call them.
But on Bouchard’s side of the court, there were a lot of good things.
Effective serving and returning
Some powerful serving – she hit the high 170s (kilometres per hour) regularly and even hit 180. She’s hitting her second serve a lot harder than even during her best days in 2014 – and a lot better than she did in 2015 and 2016.
On the return, Bouchard pounced on every second serve she could. And she missed very little despite playing the aggressive game she mastered during her peak.
Really, she had only one poor game, early in the second set. And she quickly recovered the break.
“I really told myself to stay with her and take my opportunities when I could. And I feel like I did that in the second set. It was a long second set, we kept holding, and I kept staying with her until I had my chances,” she said.
Video study an added tool
One thing Bouchard has started doing more this season, under the tutelage of coach Harold Solomon, is watching a lot more video of herself.
“I did it in the past, but I’m trying to do it a bit more at the beginning of this year, I’ve already watched all my matches at Hopman Cup and last week, so I can see right away how I look on the court, the things I do well and not well. I think it’s a good tool,” she said. “Whether I’m playing my game, if I’m being aggressive, if I made the right choices, if I’m playing the points well tactically, movement, little things.”
Bouchard said she didn’t know exactly what her ranking was this week (it fell 29 spots to No. 112, after she failed to defend semifinal points earned at the Sydney tournament a year ago).
But she knows enough to know it’s not good. Asked about her plans after the Australian swing, she mentioned feeling as though the offseason was too short to implement all the little tweaks she wanted to do to her game.
But she also mentioned that she might well play some smaller events, and knows that’s not an option, rather a necessity.
There is also the matter of her lawsuit against the USTA finally scheduled to go to trial in a month, in New York City.
Fallen ranking, changed circumstances
“I feel like I have some more training to do. But after that I really want to play a lot of matches. And I might play some smaller tournaments to get more matches, tournaments I can get in because of what my ranking is,” she said. “I have to work my way back up, so that’s what I have to do.”
But the number is not taking up much head space, she maintains.
“For me, it’s how I feel on the court, and how I progress in my practices, training, trying to improve little things in my game every day. I know the results will come. I did it in the past, I know I can do it again,” she said. “The ranking is what it. That’s the reality, but it’s not going to stay like that forever. I have to stay patient and continue working.”
No. 1 also through on Wednesday
Next up is a tall order in No. 1 seed Simona Halep.
The Romanian struggled through the first set Tuesday against Destanee Aiava. The Aussie wild card played significantly better than she did when she won just two games against Bouchard in an exhibition match last week.
But Halep also rolled her ankle a little in the process. So that might be a factor on Thursday.