Genie Bouchard’s season ends with another first-round defeat

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Genie Bouchard’s 2017 season ended Tuesday in Luxembourg.

Well, not technically, because she’s still entered in the doubles with Belgian Kirsten Flipkens. But in all ways that really matter.

The 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 loss to Johanna Larsson of Sweden was the 23-year-old Canadian’s fourth consecutive first-round loss, dating back to the US Open.

And the grey smudges underneath her eyes on this final day were visual testament of how much of a toll the on-court struggles have been taking.

Bouchard played a total of 20 WTA and Grand Slam tournaments this season. The loss in Luxembourg was her 14th first-round defeat.

In three other events, she lost in the second round.

Only three times was she able to put together back-to-back wins all year long. And two of those occasions came in January.

Bouchard reached the semifinals in Sydney. And then she reached the third round of the Australian Open.

There, she had Coco Vandeweghe in her crosshairs before letting the match slip away.

In retrospect, that was the match that might have done wonders to build some momentum and turn around a two-year slide.

But it didn’t happen. And the ensuing nine months were nothing short of disastrous.

One good week

Bouchard reached the quarterfinals in Madrid in May – her best week of the year, by far. She won three matches, including back-to-back victories over Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber (who retired down a set and 0-5 in the third round).

Other than that one week, Bouchard’s post-Australian Open record checked in at 3-16.

defeatAgainst Larsson, there was more of what was in evidence during the Asian swing, which she joined in progress after pulling out of events in Quebec City, Seoul and Wuhan.

Bouchard was striking the ball well – at least, striking it well crosscourt.

She served well in the first set before losing her rhythm.

But the 6-2 score in the first set was deceiving. Bouchard won just five more points than Larsson did – 33 to 28. And the 29-year-old Swede donated a significant number of those points. In fact, she failed to hold serve the entire set.

Bouchard didn’t play particularly well on the break points. At that point, she didn’t have to.

But when Larsson put up more resistance in the second set, began to find the confines of the court on a more regular basis, Bouchard’s game went south.

Coaching consult for naught

A coaching visit from Diego Ayala was full of good advice.

But Bouchard didn’t heed much of it.

Ayala suggested she needed to keep her shoulder up on the service motion. But for the most part, she couldn’t do it.

He told her to relax, stay in the pocket on her backhand side, and find her optimum level again. But she couldn’t do that, either.

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A coaching consult early in the second set offered some good advice. But Bouchard was unable to execute it. (WtaTV.com)

Bouchard bemoaned the fact that Larsson was controlling the points. But in fact, Larsson wasn’t really doing that. She was just getting the ball in the court more often.

The Swede knew – as everyone knows – that Bouchard has had trouble putting two solid sets together. She knew – as everyone knows – that if she hung in there against the Canadian, found a way to be more consistent, that good things might happen.

The third set went quickly.

A few hours later, the WTA Tour Tweeted this. Bizarre to have Bouchard even pose for that in the first place.

0-for-3 on final swing

After skipping three tournaments following the discouraging loss to No. 93 Evgeniya Rodina on Arthur Ashe Stadium, in the first round of the US Open, Bouchard traveled to Asia.

She rejoined the tour for her final three tournaments of the season with Ayala in tow.

The South Florida-based coach had been a temporary solution for Bouchard at the 2015 Australian Open, when she found herself coachless in the wake of the departure of longtime mentor Nick Saviano.

A few weeks later, she teamed up with Sam Sumyk.

She didn’t consider Ayala a potential long-term solution then. It’s hard to know if she might think differently this time around. The fact that she failed to win a match in Beijing, Hong Kong or Luxembourg might weigh on that decision.

2018 will be here before you know it

One big question the Canadian must answer, with just two short months ahead of her to re-group and re-assess, is what her plan will be going into the 2018 Australian Open.

Currently ranked No. 80 after beginning the season ranked No. 47, Bouchard is no danger of dropping much more this season.

So a main-draw spot in Melbourne isn’t in danger.

But right from the beginning of 2018, she will be under pressure to put up results. And she has put herself in a difficult position, both logistically and with her ranking, to try to do that.

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The match began well for Bouchard – but mostly because it began so poorly for her opponent. (WTATV.com)

More than 40 per cent of the ranking points the 23-year-old currently has on her resumé were earned in Sydney and at the Australian Open. If she fails to defend those points, her ranking would tumble to somewhere around No. 130.

Bouchard already has opted to sacrifice the first tournament week of the season. Instead of playing one of the season-opening WTA Tour events (Brisbane, Auckland or Shenzhen), she chose to take part in the exhibition Hopman Cup.

After that, only one week remains before Melbourne.

Challenging scheduling

Bouchard got into Sydney on a main-draw wild card this year, in an exchange between Tennis Australia and Tennis Canada. That’s unlikely to happen again, although anything’s possible.

Her other option that week is the International-level event in Hobart, Tasmania.

But that’s also problematic.

The main-draw cutoff ranking the last five years in Hobart has averaged No. 66. So Bouchard will be a long way from making that.

And the qualifying begins a day earlier than is typically the case, on Friday. On that Friday, Bouchard will be playing across Australia in Perth, against Belgium.

In all likelihood, her notoriety will still be worth a wild card into the smaller event. But that’s hardly a given.

And if, somehow, she and partner Vasek Pospisil do well in the Hopman Cup round-robin portion and go on to the Saturday semifinals or even the Sunday final, her window closes a little more.

The Hobart main draw begins on the Sunday. Bouchard would have to fly all day Saturday or Sunday (there are no direct flights). Then she quickly would have to adjust to the different courts and conditions (Perth is played indoors). And there is a three-hour time difference.

Between now and then, the Canadian must rebuild the entire team around her, starting with a coach.

If the last few months have been filled with weeklong breaks after early-round losses, the next three months will be significantly more jam-packed and eventful.

And because of the former, the latter has become even more crucial to stop a struggle that has now lasted three seasons.

Where does Bouchard go from here?

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The first legitimate question that has to be asked about Genie Bouchard’s abbreviated Asian swing: what is she doing there, really?

Perhaps she took the long flight from Miami in the hope that she could salvage a few wins from a difficult season.

And perhaps she hoped to finish off 2017 with even a little momentum she could take into the off-season and 2018. There no doubt was some appearance money on the table.

The 23-year-old Canadian is hitting the ball very well, which is encouraging.

But it’s not translating into victories.

At this point, it’s rarely even translating into three solid points in succession.

The 6-1, 6-1, first-round loss to No. 3 seed Caroline Wozniacki in Hong Kong Tuesday night was surely not unexpected. But it didn’t even take an hour.

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Wozniacki made quick work of Bouchard Tuesday night in Hong Kong.

Playing lower-ranked players hasn’t translated into wins. Playing a Singapore-bound player against whom she has far less to lose turned out not to be the answer, either.

The two had met only once, back in 2014 on this same Asian swing. It was one of the better weeks of Bouchard’s career, as she reached the final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Wozniacki in Wuhan.

The two were neck-and-neck in the rankings back then. And both would be headed to the Tour finals in Singapore the following month.

Bad matchup

But it’s not a great matchup for the Canadian. Bouchard needs to execute her down-the-line backhand to find Wozniacki’s weaker forehand side and turn the points in her favour. And that’s not a good shot for her unless she’s supremely confident.

Worse, there’s a tell when Bouchard about to hit it – a hesitation. And that gives her opponent a head start to defend it.

So it was Wozniacki who controlled the points. And the Dane can exchange crosscourt backhands with Bouchard all night long and come out on the winning end most of the time.

There was resignation in Bouchard’s mien. And only when she was down 0-5 in the second set did she put together a five-minute patch of play that allowed her to at least get on the scoreboard in the second set.

She has doubles with American Shelby Rogers Wednesday.

Her last tournament of the season is scheduled to be Luxembourg next week.

So you have to ask again: was the decision to play the second half of the fall swing really the right one?

Had she not received a wild card into Beijing, she might not have made the trip. Who knows? Falling in the qualifying may have done more harm than good.

But Bouchard could have turned it down. Instead, she was out before Monday even rolled around after a straight-sets loss to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.

Genie Bouchard
Bouchard peers at the Hawkeye review on one of her serves Tuesday against Caroline Wozniacki. She was correct; but it didn’t help much.

Coaching carousel continues

With Thomas Högstedt having bailed out after the US Open, Bouchard will spend yet another off-season searching for a new coach.

It’s hardly uncharted territory.

Diego Ayala, the south Florida-based coach she took with her on this three-tournament swing, is an option she has had in front of her before. And she didn’t exercise it.

Ayala went to Australia with her in 2015 after she parted ways with longtime guru Nick Saviano. That one was a surprise, in the wake of a great 2014 season that ended on a sour note in Singapore. But there was a lot going on behind the scenes despite the great results on court.

Bouchard wouldn’t even refer to Ayala as her coach then; she insisted he was her hitting partner.

A few weeks later, she ended up hiring the more-decorated Sam Sumyk. it was a stint that lasted less than six months. It didn’t end particularly well.

At the end of 2015, after all the issues around the concussion she suffered at the US Open, Bouchard returned to the WTA Tour to finish off the season with Högstedt. That didn’t go well. But at least she had a solid plan in place for the looming off-season.

But by April, 2016 Högstedt was gone. And Saviano was back. 

At the end of that season, Bouchard skipped the Asian swing. She took an extended break. And by the time she got back to work, the options on the coaching side were limited. She ended up getting Högstedt back.

But now he’s gone, too. Högstedt was in Beijing on a trial with the Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

Perhaps the most crucial off-season yet

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course. But it’s already October. Only a little more than two months remain before the WTA Tour circus takes to the road again. And in that relatively limited time frame, Bouchard has much to do.

She has to figure out who’s available on the coaching side, who she wants to work with – and who wants to work with her. She also has to develop a little chemistry if it’s someone she doesn’t know well.

Then, she has to get to work trying to maximize that time, to figure out what if anything she can upgrade in her game to come out swinging in 2018.

Because after three consecutive years of struggles, there just can’t be another year added on. 

It’s not a lot of time. And the way this final swing is going, she’s wasting precious weeks.

(All screenshots from WTAtv.com)

One and done for Bouchard in Beijing

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It’s a rather familiar story for Genie Bouchard these days – a first-round exit.

The 23-year-old Canadian was beaten by Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4, 6-3 Sunday at the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing, China.

So before the week even sets in, she’s already out, in her debut on the fall Asian swing.

Since her second-round loss to Anastasija Sevastova at the French Open, Bouchard has played eight tournaments. She has won two matches.

The matchup was promising from a positive-history standpoint for the struggling Canadian. She came in 2-0 head-to-head against the 28-year-old Slovak.

The first meeting came at the same tournament four years ago when their rankings were nearly identical: Bouchard was at No. 36 and out of the qualifying; Rybarikova was one spot better at No. 35. Bouchard won 6-4, 6-1.

Last year at Wimbledon, Bouchard again defeated Rybarikova in straight sets in a first-round match that began on Court 12, and was moved under the Centre Court roof the next day.

Since then, Rybarikova had been out injured. She then crawled her way back up the rankings and reached the Wimbledon semifinals this year. At No. 28, she is one off a career-best ranking reached after the US Open.

Mostly mental for Bouchard

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Bouchard might well have been asking herself what she was doing in Beijing. At times, she was dug in; other times, she looked like she wanted to be anywhere else. (Screenshot: WTA TV)

Bouchard’s ball striking was just fine. The velocity on the serve was fine.

And if Bouchard still doesn’t have a clear vision of what to do once she heads to the net, she at least was heading there on the right shots.

But the desire level fluctuated. And the errors came on the most routine shots – rally balls, open courts. The match was somewhat close in large part because Rybarikova made plenty of errors of her own.

Bouchard fought back from service breaks with breaks of her own. But she couldn’t do it at the end of the first set.

It was clearly a deflating moment. She began the first game of the second set with a double fault, ended that game with another double fault, and chased after it the rest of the way.

Pep talk, to no avail

Diego Ayala, a Florida-based coach who was with Bouchard at the Australian Open in 2015 and knew her from their days at the Saviano Academy when Bouchard was a teenager, is along for the three-tournament swing that will end the Canadian’s season.

Diego Ayala tried to pump Bouchard up. But it was for naught. (Screenshot: WTA TV)

A chill customer, Ayala gave her some good tactical advice on his first visit to the court, at 3-4 in the first set.

Bouchard shrugged her shoulders.

She appeared a little more receptive on his second trip, at 3-4 in the second set. Ayala tried the pep-talk route this time.

“Don’t worry about what it feels like, just keep digging. You’ve got to scrap, you’ve got to kick, you’ve got to fight,” he said. “You can do a little bit better job with the positive energy. Show her that you’re here a little bit more. Celebrate your good positive stuff.”

Bouchard won just two points the rest of the way. She finished it off with … a double fault.

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Rybarikova didn’t play her best match of the year. Not even close. But on this day, it was more than enough to beat Bouchard for the first time. (Screenshot: WTA TV)

In a twist of fate, the Canadian’s ranking will actually rise, despite the early exit.

She didn’t play the Asian swing a year ago. And a few players with points to defend – Kateryna Kozlova, Francesca Schiavone and Alison Van Uytvanck among them – didn’t defend theirs, aren’t in the Beijing draw, and dropped below her.

From her current No. 85, Bouchard could move up as many as six spots, although there are still a couple of players who could pass her.

She is entered in the International-level event in Hong Kong next week. And then Luxembourg to finish out a very tough season.

(All screenshots from the WTAtv stream)

Bouchard gets wild card into Beijing

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Genie Bouchard will not have to suffer the rigors of qualifying this weekend.

The 23-year-old Canadian has been issued a wild card into the big Premier Mandatory tournament in Beijing. Bouchard left her home in Miami Wednesday to head for Asia for the first time during this Asian swing.

It will be Bouchard’s first tournament since losing in the first round of the US Open to Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.

(Update: she’ll play Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in the first round. For an explanation on how she was able to get a fourth wild card this season, click here).

The China Open offers nearly $6.4 million in prize money. Other than the 10-day events in Indian Wells and Miami, that’s the biggest purse on the WTA Tour.

Bouchard’s ranking stood at No. 74 at the entry deadline. So she was still 14 spots out of the 60-player main draw as of Thursday evening back home. The Canadian would have been unseeded in the qualifying draw as well.

There certainly was a possibility Bouchard would just end her season. Or, at the least, skip the Asian swing entirely. But with a main-draw spot in Beijing, and a main-draw spot in the International-level event in Hong Kong the following week, the issue of a match-rusty Bouchard trying to qualify was off the table.

First appearance in Asia

Citing a slow recovery from the virus she contracted in New York after her first-round exit at the US Open, Bouchard withdrew from the Quebec City WTA event the week after the US Open.

She also withdrew from scheduled participation in the Korean Open in Seoul (main draw). And then, she also pulled out of qualifying for the Premier 5 tournament in Wuhan, China this week.

With the departure of coach Thomas Högstedt, Bouchard will not even have Roberto Brogin with her in Asia. Brogin, who worked with Bouchard when she first returned to the national training centre in Montreal from Florida nearly a decade ago, had filled in at various events in Högstedt’s absence this season.

He also has a full-time job with Tennis Canada at their training centre in Vancouver.

Blast from the past

Diego Ayala will be on board in Asia. Ayala, a coach based in south Florida, began the season with Bouchard down in Australia in 2015 after her split with Nick Saviano. Bouchard knew him from her younger days at Saviano’s academy.

Ayala’s agreement, we’re told is that he’ll be on board for the three tournaments remaining on Bouchard’s schedule for 2017.

So, barring anything unforeseen, that could well mean she intends to remain on the road for both Hong Kong and Luxemberg, two smaller events, to close it out.

At the time, Bouchard would not refer to Ayala as her “coach.” She preferred “hitting partner.” And upon returning home, she hired current Garbiñe Muguruza coach Sam Sumyk as a permanent replacement for Saviano.

But despite not playing any official warmup events, and under pressure to back up her breakthrough semifinal the previous year, Bouchard reached the quarterfinals in Australia with Ayala on board.

She lost in three sets to Maria Sharapova.

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Ayala, whom Bouchard has known since she was a young teenager, will reportedly be on the rest of the Asian swing with her. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Coincidentally, Sharapova also has a wild card into Beijing, announced last month.

The two names have been linked often recently, for other reasons. Their last meeting was blockbuster.

This linkage is a little more unexpected.  First-round wild-card popcorn, anyone?

(Chinese players Zhu Lin, Wang Yafan and Duan Ying-Ying also have wild cards into the main draw).

Coachless Bouchard skips Wuhan (updated)

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The season to forget hasn’t gotten any better for Canadian Genie Bouchard.

She already has withdrawn from the tournaments in Quebec City last week and Seoul, Korea this week. The official reason is a nasty virus she caught in New York.

Now, Bouchard has withdrawn from the qualifying for the Premier tournament in Wuhan, China next week.

To add insult to injury, the 23-year-old also has lost her coach.

Tennis.Life has learned that Thomas Högstedt has left Team Bouchard. The Swede worked with Bouchard for the first three months of 2016 and then returned for 2017. 

We were told that Högstedt had already signed on with Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.

Maya Kurilova, who represents the Russian Ekaterina Makarova, confirmed to tennis.life that she contacted Högstedt after the US Open about his availability to trial with Makarova on the Asian swing. Kurilova added that Makarova hadn’t made a decision yet; still choosing from “among a few candidates”. Makarova had a short-term agreement with British coach Nigel Sears through the North American hard-court season. 

(Update, Oct. 2: Makarova did indeed go with Högstedt. The WTA Tour Insider Twitter reports Högstedt is in Beijing with her).

Bouchard’s 2017 season hasn’t gone better than 2016. And the accumulated losing can’t be good for the psyche.

It appeared she might be turning a corner when she defeated Maria Sharapova and then-No. 1 Angelique Kerber, back to back, in Madrid in early May. There was extra motivation against Sharapova, given Bouchard’s public stand against doping in general and Sharapova, once her idol, in particular.

She then was a late withdrawal from the qualifying in Rome, a momentum-killer even if the back-to-back victories in Madrid likely were tough physically.

Then, on a practice court in Nürnberg (the site of her only WTA Tour title to date back in 2014), a rolled ankle compromised the French Open

By the time Wimbledon rolled around, the self-imposed pressure of making a run at the tournament where she reached the final just three years before – her favorite tournament – appeared to do her in.

After winning the first set 6-1, Bouchard imploded and lost in three sets to Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain in the first round.

Déjà vu all over again

The pattern has repeated itself over and over. Work hard on the practice court, hit the ball well. And then, once on the match court, the emotions, the lack of confidence, take over.

It has been a rough summer, with one highlight: Bouchard and Sloane Stephens reached the doubles final at the Citi Open in D.C.

It’s a result that did a whole lot more for Stephens’ momentum, as subsequent events proved.

To sum up, the last time Bouchard put together back-to-back victories in singles was in that Madrid tournament, against those two marquee players.

Since then, she has gone 3-8 with first-round losses at Wimbledon, at home in Canada, and on Arthur Ashe Stadium against the No. 93 player in the world.

Bouchard’s ranking was at No. 52 after the Madrid tournament. As of Monday, she was down to No. 87.  

A year ago at this time, she was ranked No. 49.

Katerina Siniakova beat her in the first round of the US Open, and then Bouchard lost an emotional second-round match to Alla Kudryavtseva in Quebec City.

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Bouchard struggled against Croatia’s Donna Vekic – and the home pressure in Canada – at the Rogers Cup in August.

To play, or not to play?

After that, she skipped the Asian swing as well. Bouchard played just two matches the remainder of the 2016 season, fulfilling commitments in Linz, Austria and Luxembourg but losing in the first round at both.

So there was an opportunity to make up some ground in the last part of 2017.

But given the current state of things, there’s no guarantee she would start winning. More losses would just worsen the slump, the effects of which clearly are cumulative and just as clearly taking a toll.

Conversely, with no points to defend the rest of the season, all Bouchard would be giving up by skipping the swing once again would be some appearance money. Her plummeting ranking wouldn’t take a hit.

Back in May, she was the first player announced for the field in Luxembourg, which takes place the week of Oct. 16. She is currently not in the main draw by virtue of her ranking. But she’s next in.

Bouchard didn’t enter the WTA tournament the previous week in Linz, Austria, opting for Hong Kong instead. (The Hong Kong media announced her appearance only Tuesday, as the entry list was revealed).

Have we seen the last of her in 2017? Or will she try to get back on court and finish on a positive note?

That’s the dilemma the embattled Bouchard is wrestling with at the moment. It’s hard to say what the right decision is.

Genie Bouchard pulls out of Seoul

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It’s not a promising start for what was intended to be a long Asian swing for the embattled Genie Bouchard.

The 23-year-old Canadian has pulled out of next week’s WTA Tour event in Seoul, Korea.

And she may well abdicate the entire Asian tour, although there’s no confirmation as yet. 

Bouchard also skipped Asia last year, coming back to fulfil obligations in Linz and Luxembourg to finish off her season and taking a long break.

After a tough first-round loss at the US Open against Russian Evgeniya Rodina, and a first-round loss in doubles with Jelena Ostapenko, Bouchard headed back to Montreal after a few more days in New York.

Whatever her plans were, there was no point in even trying to go back to her home in Miami, given Hurricane Irma’s wrath.

Ranking to drop again

She then withdrew from her home-province event, the Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City.  That tournament is taking place this week.

Bouchard won a round in Quebec City a year ago. As result of not defending those points, her WTA Tour ranking next Monday will take another tumble – down to No. 85, perhaps one or two more spots.

There seems to be a lot going on behind the scenes. Stayed tuned to this space.

Genie Bouchard pulls out of Quebec City

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NEW YORK – Canadian Genie Bouchard has pulled out of next week’s Coupe Banque Nationale in Quebec City.

“I am extremely disappointed to have to withdraw from the National Bank Cup because it’s a tournament that I enjoy and I am always motivated to play at home in front of the Quebec crowd,” was the quote from Bouchard in the press release.

“I have been dealing with a virus for the past few days that has not allowed me to train since the end of the U.S. Open and will prevent me from playing the tournament. I will focus my energy on recovering, but I don’t know when I will be able to return to competition,” Bouchard said.

Bouchard’s next scheduled event is in Seoul, Korea, an International-level WTA event the following week (week of Sept. 18). She also is entered in the qualifying of the Premier 5 event in Wuhan, China the week after that and then into the Premier Mandatory tournament in Beijing the week after Wuhan.

Camila Giorgi of Italy has also withdrawn from Quebec City. Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, who celebrated her 30th birthday Thursday, got a nice gift a day late and received a wild card into the main draw.

She had been slated to play the qualifying.

Replacing Bouchard and Giorgi in the main draw are Marina Erakovic of New Zealand and American Grace Min. The draw will take place Saturday at 1 p.m.

It’s a tough blow for the tournament, which doesn’t have a top-40 player entered. Bouchard, of course, was a premier attraction for the International-level event as a local favorite with a big following.

A year ago, she was paid a substantial appearance fee to play, but lost in the second round to Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia in a rather dramatic exit.

Azarenka and Sharapova not options

Just before the US Open, Victoria Azarenka’s agent had approached the tournament asking if the top-20 wild card was still available, because she was interested in playing it. In the end, Azarenka’s custody-related issues at home prevented her from considering it.

No doubt the tournament director is making a major effort to reach out to another top player to try to replace its marquee attraction.

Maria Sharapova would have been an intriguing – and game-changing – possibility. But with her memoir due for official release on Tuesday, she has a full slate of promotional activities set up in conjunction with that.

(Pic of Bouchard above from Instagram, posted Wednesday as a promo for her host hotel and a farewel to New York after a tough US Open).

US Open pics: Bouchard and Pliskova

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NEW YORK – We rarely keep track of the score in practice sets. The hope is that players might actually be working on tactical things, and not concerning themselves about the scoreboard.

(That doesn’t happen in the few days before a Grand Slam, of course. They’re just playing. Or, you know, every often. But hope springs eternal).

But we’ll note here that Canadian Eugenie Bouchard had her way with Karolina Pliskova during a 45-minute hit Saturday at the US Open.

Every little bit of confidence helps, right? Bouchard – even when she was winning a lot of actual tennis matches – rarely came out on the good end of practice sets against other players.

The practice might have been better attended except for the fact that it was nowhere to be found on the posted practice schedule. Still, some fans found it.

And Bouchard was more in demand for autographs then the top-ranked player in the world afterwards. That’s the bizarre world she inhabits, still, even as her ranking dropped two spots to No. 76 on Sunday.

She sits between Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay and Francesca Schiavone, for whom this is likely to be the final US Open.

Here’s what they looked like out on a back court, with the workers taking down all the banners from the just completed Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day activities as they hit.

Another tough Canadian outing for Bouchard

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TORONTO – No one wants Eugenie Bouchard to play better at home than … Bouchard herself.

She has a big fan base here. She also has many sponsors, and few opportunities to showcase herself and their brand on home soil. Both her parents are in attendance in Toronto this week.

But home field advantage has proven to be a challenge for the 23-year-old, one of many challenges she has found herself dealing with over most of the last three seasons.

Tuesday’s 6-3, 6-4 first-round loss to qualifier Donna Vekic of Croatia was just another tough day at the Canadian office. 

Vekic, also tall and blonde and a player who has struggled with her own consistency before bouncing back this season, is more than two years Bouchard’s junior and ranked higher at the moment, at No. 51.

Summer victories scarce

The defeat won’t hurt Bouchard in the rankings. She will stay about where she is, at No. 70.

But it’s another first-round loss.

And it means that in the last three months, since that tournament on clay in Madrid where she defeated Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber in back-to-back matches, Bouchard has just two victories.

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That’s thin soup on which to rebuild confidence. So it’s not a shock that Bouchard’s confidence is at a pretty low ebb at the moment.

But the Catch-22 is that she said she needs wins to get her confidence back. But it’s hard to get wins at the top levels of the WTA Tour (even the lower levels) without being confident.

Downcast in press

Here’s what Bouchard had to say after the match in her press conference (with subtitles for the French portion).

There were definitely some snippier moments.

But to Bouchard’s credit, she has taken a ton of tough losses over the last few years. With perhaps one exception (in Quebec City last fall), she has always come out to do press – and answer the same questions about how people on social media say she spends too much time on social media.

There are some players who just skip out, and take the fine (which Bouchard can easily afford). Clearly this loss hurt, maybe even a little more than some of the other tough ones.

After the main press conference, she talked to TSN’s Mark Masters about carrying that Canadian load.

“It’s a blessing and a curse. I’m obviously so grateful for my life, and the fans, I can’t complain and don’t want to complain,” she said. “It’s a position I want to be in, but sometimes I have more time struggling with it than others.”

Masters, who covers the Grand Slams for TSN (with Sportsnet having the rights to the Rogers Cup, TSN is a rather more discreet presence here), is a kind fellow who gets the questions asked that need to be asked. There’s not even a hint of the malice that some of the male journalists gleefully exhibit towards Bouchard.

It’s no wonder she likes him.

And it’s no wonder he elicited some thoughtful answers from her in a one-on-one after the main conference (see link above). A familiar face is helpful in that regard, too, as tennis players see only a few of those at all the pit stops during a season.

On the plus side, even if it’s cold comfort, Bouchard is still in the doubles draw.

She and world No. 1 singles player Karolina Pliskova defeated Kirsten Flipkens and Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-2 later Tuesday afternoon, to advance to the second round.

Bouchard

Cincy a no-go?

At the end of the press conference, in answer to a question in French, Bouchard said her next scheduled tournament was the qualifying in Cincinnati.

But she sounded unconvinced that she would actually play it. So that leaves only the final leadup tournament in New Haven, the week before the US Open.

The old Billie Jean King saying that pressure is a privilege may be the truth, but clearly Bouchard would rather be a little less privileged at the moment.

She certainly hoped she had solve the Rogers Cup riddle a little bit a year ago in Montreal, when she defeated Lucie Safarova and then Cibulkova to reach the third round.

But that will have to be for another year.

No coach, new trainer for Bouchard in Toronto

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TORONTO – For the second tournament in a row after the post-Wimbledon break, Genie Bouchard is playing a tournament without coach Thomas Högstedt or physical trainer Cassiano Costa.

No, she hasn’t parted ways with Högstedt, who was originally due to be in Toronto.

They will reconnect next week in Cincinnati, Bouchard said Monday.

But Costa is no longer on the job. 

Big week for Bouchard

Bouchard’s new physical trainer is a familiar face.

Bouchard

Andy Hanley, originally from Ireland, was performance director at The Chamber gym in Davie, Fla. The 23-year-old worked with him then; the gym was a training base for off-court work for Bouchard when was at home in Miami and especially when she was working with coach Nick Saviano, whose academy is in nearby Plantation.

Hanley remains affiliated with Saviano’s academy. He’s the physical trainer; when he’s on the road, the academy uses someone else from his setup.

He was her private performance coach when she was playing her best tennis back in 2013-2014.

Hanley also worked with Sloane Stephens a little bit at the end of the 2013 season.

 

The Rogers Cup is a big week for Bouchard on many levels – not the least of which is that the spotlight shines brightest on her during this week.

As well, she has obligations with sponsors and partners.

Bouchard also has family here. And, for the first time in a long time, both her parents (who are divorced) are in attendance.

It’s definitely not going to be a week in which she can work on anything technical. Roberto Brogin, the Tennis Canada coach who worked with her in Montreal during her first junior years, is on hand. He was also in Washington, D.C. last week, as was Hanley.  

Once the preparation for the US Open gets going in earnest next week, Bouchard said, Högstedt will be there.

Bouchard will play her first round Tuesday afternoon against qualifier Donna Vekic of Croatia. It’s a match of  – let’s not sidestep it – blonde bombshells. And it’s a difficult first round for both.