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.

Bouchard

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.

Bouchard-Stephens reach DC dubs final

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WASHINGTON – The first-time team makes the final.

Genie Bouchard and Sloane Stephens, who share an agent in John Tobias but have known each other half their lives, teamed up for the first time at the Citi Open and are one match away from the title.

They upset the No. 3 seeds Mariana Duque-Mariño and María Irigoyen in the first round. And in Friday’s semifinal, they toppled the top seeds, Sania Mirza and Monica Niculescu, in an improbable 1-6, 7-5, 10-8 victory before a full house on Grandstand 2 court in Washington, D.C.

Earlier in the day, the pair had played their quarterfinal match, postponed by the rain on Thursday evening.

Their opponents, Nigina Abduraimova and Patricia Maria Tig, retired after the first game of the second set because of an arm injury to Tig.

Then the two, and entourage, went off to the practice court while they waited for their opponents to be available for the semifinal.

Highlights only

Here were some of their best moments (we left out most of the awful ones, most of which took place in the first set).

The pair rushed out to a 7-2 lead in the match tiebreak, and very nearly coughed it up before going on to win it 10-8.

Some pics:

They will play No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama of Japan and Renata Voracova of the Czech Republic in the final, Saturday at 1 p.m.

Double win for Eugenie Bouchard in D.C.

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WASHINGTON – It had been awhile since Genie Bouchard won a tennis match.

More than two months, in fact. But on Thursday, she won two.

The 23-year-old Canadian overcame an early break in the first set against Christina Mchale to win 7-6 (6), 6-0, and advance to the second round of the Citi Open.

Later in the day, in the company of American Sloane Stephens, she posted her second win, a 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 victory over No. 3 seeds Mariana Duque-Mariño of Colombia and María Irigoyen of Argentina.

A very good day, for a player who really needed it.

Here’s what the singles win looked like (with a little video at the end).

“I have to say that I’m happier about the win in doubles, because I don’t play doubles often – although I plan to play more in the future – and I haven’t won too many doubles matches in the past. So it was a big win for me,” Bouchard said.

The Canadian looked sluggish at the beginning of the singles match, not surprising given the heat. The umpire told Bouchard and Mchale at the beginning of the second set that if it went to a third, they would have a 10-minute break beforehand. She didn’t want it to get that far.

“I felt a bit slow. It was really, really hot. I had to think about moving more than normal, for it to be normal. And I was a bit nervous, because I haven’t played a match in the month. In the first round, I think everyone has that – where you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” Bouchard said. 

“When I was down 4-2, I realized she was dominating the rallies a little bit. I let my shots go a lot more, and it really turned the match around,” she added. “It was so hot, it hurt your feet. It wasn’t even like I felt my feet were on fire; they actually hurt.”

Winless since May

Bouchard came into the French Open after suffering a nasty sprained ankle the previous week in Nürnberg. The three-set win in the first round against Risa Ozaki was a struggle, and the ankle didn’t pull up well for her second-round match against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia.

That went quickly – in the other direction. Bouchard then lost in three sets to Francesca Schiavone on grass in Mallorca, and to Barbora Strycova in three sets at Eastbourne.

At Wimbledon, after winning the first set 6-1, she went down in three to No. 25 seed Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain. 

That was a month ago – a long time to wait to get back on a winning track.

The doubles match was played before packed house on Court 2. It’s a small court, and a lot of the doubles matches at the Citi Open are played there. When the better-known singles players are on the court, it gets pretty packed.

But if Bouchard’s partner Sloane Stephens snarkily remarked on Monday about playing the match on “Court 25”, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what Bouchard’s compatriot Bianca Andreescu had to deal with.

Andreescu played on Court 3, normally a practice court, with very little room on the sides and behind the baseline. It’s completely surrounded by chain-link fencing, with no stands for the fans to watch. And it’s right next to a couple of portable toilets.

In comparison, Court 2 was paradise. And it was standing-room only with a long lineup to get in.

Bouchard and Stevens faced two very good doubles players in Duque-Mariño and Irigoyen.

After a slow start, they prevailed 2-6, 6-3, 10-6 to move on to the quarterfinals. On Thursday, they will face Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan and Patricia Maria Tig of Romania. So that’s certainly winnable.

Matchup of former top-10s

In singles, Bouchard will play Andrea Petkovic of Germany.

Petkovic, a former top-10 player who turns 30 the day of the US Open women’s singles final, is really struggling. She finished the 2014 season ranked No. 14, but was down to No. 24 by the end of 2015.

She was ranked No. 56 at the end of last season but this week, has fallen out of the top 100 for the first time she she first broke into it, in June, 2013.

Petkovic has only two wins since early April at the WTA Tour level And one of those came in the first round here against Kurumi Nara of Japan.

But against Bouchard, she’s 4-1. The Canadian’s only victory came in that dream 2014 Wimbledon, where she defeated Petkovic in the third round on her way to the final.

Their last meeting came in Beijing in 2015. That was Bouchard’s first tournament back after suffering a concussion in the women’s locker room at the US Open.

She began feeling symptoms again on the court against Petkovic, and retired early in the second set. She didn’t play again the rest of the year.

Bouchard and Stephens team up

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Canadian Genie Bouchard and American Sloane Stephens, both of whom have tough first-round singles matches at the Citi Open, are teaming up for doubles.

What’s surprising is that it’s the first time it’s ever happened.

The careers of the 23-year-old Bouchard and the 24-year-old Stephens have so many areas of commonality.

And at the moment, they have the same agent, John Tobias.

StephensBouchard and Stephens have known each other probably half their lives.

Barely teenagers, both worked with Nick Saviano at his Florida academy where we’re told they got along well, but weren’t close friends by any stretch.

Stephens was born and raised nearby; Bouchard transplanted down from Canada.

Both broke through at a young age at the Australian Open.

Stephens reached the semi-finals in 2013 as the No. 25 seed and broke into the top 20 as a result.

A year later, Bouchard reached the semifinals as the No. 30 seed, leaped into the top 20 as a result, and went on from there to a big-time season.

After spreading their wings beyond Saviano’s academy, both returned to be coached by him.

Stephens

Stephens

And, both have been coached by Thomas Hogstedt (Stephens briefly, Bouchard both part of 2016 and all this season so far).

Stephens Stephens

Dramatic encounters

And they have met, on several dramatic occasions. 

The first time was five years ago at the Citi Open, when Stephens was ranked No. 50 and Bouchard (with a WTA ranking of No. 294 and a wild card into the event) was just coming off her junior Wimbledon win. Stephens won, 6-4, 6-4.

Fast forward four years. They played a tense one at Indian Wells last year, as both were struggling. Bouchard won that one, 7-5, 7-5

Stephens

They met again a few months later, in the first round of the Summer Olympics in Rio. By then, Stephens was already dealingwith the stress fracture in her foot.

She lost in the first round in D.C., the first round in Montreal, and 6-3, 6-3 to Bouchard at the Games. She didn’t play for the rest of the season.

Stephens

Stephens is returning from foot surgery. Her first tournament of the year was at Wimbledon. And she didn’t get much draw luck in D.C.; the wild card (current real ranking: No. 926) drew another wild card – No. 1 seed Simona Halep. It couldn’t have been much worse.

Bouchard, who has struggled to win matches since a great effort in Madrid in early May, will play No. 8 seed Christina Mchale Tuesday night.

On Monday, they practiced together. 

Here’s what it looked like.

And some video.

The women’s doubles draw is shockingly weak in D.C. this week. In fact, they didn’t even fill out the 16-team draw. The top seeds, Sania Mirza and Monica Niculescu, have a first-round bye.

Stephens
A little hype in Charleston a year ago.

But Stephens and Bouchard didn’t luck out; they drew a pretty tough pair in No. 3 seeds Mariana Duque-Mariño and María Irigoyen. They’ll play Wednesday.

The big day is Tuesday, though, as both try to get through in singles.

Who knows, maybe a little girl-power alliance between two struggling players might add a little positive karma to the thing.

Venus d. Genie in packed Atlanta ATP exho

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It was definitely out-of-the-box thinking for a smaller ATP Tour event.

Typically, these tournaments will bring in some legends of the game to add some box-office bite.

But the BB&T Atlanta Open thought differently. It booked American tennis legend Venus Williams and Canadian Genie Bouchard to play an exhibition Sunday night.

The 250-level event, the first American hard-court tournament in the leadup to the US Open, officially begins main-draw action Monday.

The initiative was an instant success; the tickets moved in a hurry, and they even added more seats later, after the March launch.

Atlanta is a big-time tennis market that is vastly underserved by the professional game. As well, the city’s percentage of African-American residents (per the 2010 US Census) was 54 per cent.

Bringing in Venus was smart thinking. And they couldn’t know, back in March, that the 37-year-old would be coming in fresh off the Wimbledon ladies’ singles final.

 

When the men visited the women …

The only comparable cross-pollination of the men’s and women’s Tours was a misguided idea hatched by the Rogers Cup tournaments in Montreal and Toronto in 2013.

The women draw very good crowds in Toronto, especially by WTA Tour stand-alone standards. But nothing like they do in Montreal. And so the organizers decided it would be a “great” idea to fly in some of the early losers from the men’s event in Montreal to play an exhibition at the women’s event. They also had several men’s legends matches.

Feliciano Lopez and Bernard Tomic volunteered (for $20,000 US and expenses, of course).

Ironically, Venus Williams was a first-round loser at the women’s event in Toronto that year. But she wasn’t offered that same opportunity to go to Montreal and play an exhibition.

Luckily, the idea – which came up late in the game and with rather little fanfare and was the result of a government funding program – quickly was cross-checked going forward.

A full house in Atlanta

On Sunday night in Atlanta, the place was packed for the two women. They might not even get a crowd that good for the men’s final next Sunday.

For some photos of the two, click here.

The two players were premiering some summer kits. Bouchard was wearing the red and blue other Nike athletes were wearing in tournaments this week. Williams’ dress was, to say the least, spectacular.

Venus
Part of the exhibition gig is making nice with the more well-heeled patrons, which Williams and Bouchard did before the match.

Bouchard has had a busy week. After her first-round exit at Wimbleldon, she was in Las Vegas training with physical guru Gil Reyes (and hitting tennis balls under the watchful eye of Andre Agassi, too).

And then, she flew to New York City on Monday to do some Nike promotional work with golfer Michelle Wie.

The Canadian returned to Vegas for some more training before she headed to Atlanta for this one-night stand. Bouchard will play two World Team Tennis matches in New York City Thursday and Friday. She then will head to Washington, D.C. on the weekend for next week’s Citi Open.

Williams’s next stop is Philadelphia. She will play World Team Tennis Monday night.

It’s not a significant fact, but Williams defeated Bouchard 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Genie Bouchard to try Quebec City again

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Things didn’t go very well for Canadian Genie Bouchard a year ago, when she played her (almost) hometown WTA Tour event in Quebec City.

But although the tournament has yet to announce it – and this is big news in that area – the 23-year-old already has entered the Coupe Banque Nationale again this year.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that there’s a 100 per cent chance she will play – only that she already is officially entered. The entry deadline for the tournament is next Monday, July 31.

The tournament takes place indoors, the week after the conclusion of the U.S. Open.

A year ago, Bouchard was a surprise entry into the tournament – and a very early commitment.

That runs counter to Bouchard’s typical time frame. Usually, she tends to enter tournaments much closer to the deadline.

Big announcement

A year ago, the news was announced with a splash, just before the French Open. That’s four months before the tournament.

And Bouchard went live back home via video hookup from Paris. She also received a hefty appearance fee.

Bouchard boo birds

After a lightning 30-hour trip to Turks & Caicos to shoot her Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue spread (something that was a closely-guarded secret at the time), Bouchard arrived in Quebec City early to fulfill her promotional obligations.

She found herself having to answer questions about a delicate family matter that had been going on back home in Montreal. That didn’t help a spirit already disheartened by her first-round loss to Katerina Siniakova at the US Open.

It had already been a jam-packed summer. Bouchard went straight from the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. to the Rogers Cup in Montreal, to Rio for the Olympics, to Cincinnati, then New Haven and then the US Open. She played every single week for two solid months.

She didn’t  get deep into any of the tournaments. But as she pointed out in a later interview, the stress of going from city to city, the travel and the practice and the pressure (with the long trip to South America in the middle) remained the same. And it had a cumulative effect.

The Canadian got through her first-round match against Mandy Minella of Luxembourg. But she said afterwards she had probably played at about 50 per cent of her ideal level.

But then, she fell in the second round to the much lower-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia amid some drama. 

Bouchard heard some booing as she left the court in tears after the 6-2, 6-3 defeat. And – exceptionally for her, because she always has faced the media after some pretty difficult losses over the last few years – she skipped her post-match press conference.

A return engagement

According to La Presse, both Rogers Cup tournament director Eugene Lapierre and then-Quebec City tournament director Pierre-Luc Tessier tried to convince her to return. But she said she would pay the resulting fine.

Earlier, Bouchard had posted on Twitter about the noise at her hotel keeping her up half the night. Which didn’t go over very well.

So it’s interesting that she has decided to go back and try to get it right this time. Perhaps that’s the reason it’s all so low-profile so far. The fact that there has been no announcement is definitely surprising.

(It should be noted, too, that Bouchard is on a similar run of tournaments this year: D.C., Rogers Cup, Cincinnati (where she likely will have to play the qualifying), New Haven and the US Open. The only event missing is the Olympics). 

She is prefacing that run with an exhibition against Venus Williams in Atlanta Sunday, followed by appearances with the New York Empire of World Team Tennis Thursday and Friday nights in New York City.)

The tournament’s early promotional poster has some history (with Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova) and features 17-year-old up-and-coming Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Bouchard

One and done for Bouchard at Wimbledon

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WIMBLEDON – The first set against No. 25 seed Carla Suárez Navarro Monday at Wimbledon looked like a fresh start for Canadian Genie Bouchard.

But her confidence is so fragile these days, it can turn on a dime.

And when the tide did turn early in the second set of a 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 first-round defeat, it felt a little like déjà vu.

There have been several such defeats this season for the 23-year-old Canadian, who often starts well, but can’t sustain it. Or, she fights back and plays a good second set, but can’t keep the momentum up for a decider.

“I started the way I wanted to, and after that I got a bit nervous. My opponent started to play better, and stopped missing the balls she missed in the first set. Just couldn’t find the solution to get out of it,” Bouchard said. “I just wanted to win so much, that I think I got myself out of the moment. I was thinking about so much about winning. … For the rest of the match I tried to get back in that moment, but I couldn’t do it.”

Bouchard said that whenever she loses, she gets angry with herself. But losing at Wimbledon hurts even more.

“It was very, very good first set. Impeccable. She followed her game plan. She was aggressive, changed the direction of the ball, and focused on Suárez Navarro’s forehand. You really felt she was confident,” Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau said. “In the second set it all turned on a few points in early in the second set. She had the opportunity to break, but she didn’t make it. And then on her own service game, she had points to make it 1-1. Same thing – a few mistakes. And then you saw the confidence swing to the other side.”

 Bouchard’s 2016 tournament here was encouraging; it was as though just being in her favorite tennis place helped to up her level.

BouchardShe won a first-round match against Magdalena Rybarikova that began on Court 12, and ended up under the roof on Centre Court. It was perfect preparation for a second-round against Brit Johanna Konta on the same court. And even though she lost in the third round to Dominika Cibulkova, it was a good tournament by the standards of her post-2014 career.

For this one, she had a tough first-round opponent but one against whom she had a reasonable chance of success. But at the first smell of victory, the doubts kicked in.

“I was thinking about, ‘Okay, I have to a chance to win this match.’ I knew it was a tough first round. But I always believed I could win. It was coming so easily, I was playing so well, so maybe I was less concentrated point-by-point, kind of thing,” she said. “I do feel I gave her opportunities to come back. I started making a couple more errors, maybe being less aggressive, and she totally took advantage and started going for her shots, which she wasn’t in the first set. So a little bit of both.

“She did raise her level and start playing more aggressive, but I feel like I gave her chances to do that,” Bouchard added. “I haven’t played that many matches this year, and haven’t had a lot of wins this year. I had momentum, I just kind of felt myself losing it and I couldn’t quite get it back. With more match play, I feel like I have more match toughness, and I definitely feel I was lacking that today.”

Best game hinges on health

The ongoing issue with the ankle, which remains at less than 100 per cent, didn’t help – especially on the slippery, early-round grass.

“Having the injury, not practicing enough, still being hesitant to move. Seeing everyone slip on these courts and kind of just being terrified to move is one thing. And when I’m not physically 100 per cent, that affects my game,” Bouchard said. “My game is athletic. I like to move, take the ball early. I can also run down a lot of balls. So if I’m not 100 per cent physically, it affects my whole game. It affects my confidence as well.”

The injury certainly was a momentum killer. In Madrid, with back-to-back victories over the returning Maria Sharapova and world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, the mojo was starting to kick back in – finally.

Then, she rolled her ankle in Nürnberg.

“It’s just so unfortunate that as soon as I started feeling like myself again, started playing well, I had a setback. I got an injury and ever since my injury I still haven’t felt like I had that good form. Just don’t quite the same feeling on the court as I had,” Bouchard said. “Guess it’ll take more time and more practice to get back to it.

“I felt like myself on the tennis court – I was playing free, but had that balance of consistency and aggression. Playing my game to the best I can play it, and playing the right way. I don’t quite feel like the rhythm that I had.”

July now a write-off

Bouchard

The problem with early losses in extended tournaments is that there is too much time to think about it before the next tournament opportunity comes.

It was like that for Bouchard with first-round exits in both Indian Wells and Miami. Those are 10-day events, extended over two weeks, really. So that means two weeks to sit around and stew about it before you have a chance to do something about it.

It’s the same thing at Wimbledon. Bouchard was ousted on the first day of the tournament, and that’s it for a while.

Her first official tournament won’t be for another four weeks, at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. the week before the Rogers Cup in Toronto. That’s the beginning of August already, which means that the month of July is a total write-off.

On the plus side, she can certainly get back to more aggressive rehab on the ankle.

Bouchard has a couple of commitments to play World Team Tennis for the New York Empire, a franchise that plays its home dates on the site of the US Open.

She also will play an exhibition with Venus Williams the week before the D.C. tournament

In the meantime, it’s back to the practice court, back to the gym, as she tries to turn the page.

After the down, comes the up?

This season, tennis hasn’t been a lot of fun overall for Bouchard. She’s still waiting for that renaissance year as she struggles through a third consecutive season after her 2014 breakthrough.

“This year’s definitely been a struggle. Really enjoyed it some moments, been tough other moments. You just always have to have faith that after some low moments, there have to be some ups coming soon,” she said.

She admits that it’s mental, at this point. And while she’s working with a sports psychologist, she knows it’s ultimately up to her.

“I do work with one, like a lot of athletes do. I think it’s a good tool if it helps,” she said. “But you also have to work on yourself.

“It’s all about you and your head, and I could have done a better job there today, for sure.”

 

Wimbledon flashback: Bouchard, Townsend win junior dubs

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WIMBLEDON – Have five years really already passed? 

The day after Canadian Genie Bouchard won the 2012 junior girls’ singles title with a routine victory over Elina Svitolina, she took to the court again.

This time, she teamed up with American Taylor Townsend to play the junior girls’ doubles final.

You look at the roster of their opponents and you can see that getting to a Slam doubles final is no guarantee of anything.

None of those players have really broken through yet.

One who is here this week is Bouchard’s countrywoman, Françoise Abanda, who qualified for the singles for the very first time.

Abanda was just 15 back in 2012, three years younger than Bouchard. And she also reached the singles semi-final, losing to Svitolina in three sets.

flashback

But those opponents in the girls’ doubles final? They were just babies, but it was clear they were going places.

Bouchard

Belinda Bencic was 15; Ana Konjuh was still just 14.

Teenage excitement

Bouchard and Townsend, a few years older, defeated them fairly routinely. And they were pretty excited about it.

The best part of this victory was afterwards. The two giggly teenagers (yes, life was once not so serious, and none of those career setbacks had happened yet) discussed the whole motivation behind the doubles win.

Bouchard had already been to the Wimbledon Champions Ball the previous year; she won the girls’ doubles with Townsend’s countrywoman Grace Min.

So this title was all about getting Townsend there, too. The idea that there was a big room where the dresses and shoes were all lined up to choose from, and hair and makeup specialists awaited, was an exceptional notion.

Here’s a long-lost little audio clip of the two young ladies talking after the victory. Just came across it today.

 

Low-profile Bouchard takes on Wimbledon

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WIMBLEDON – Genie Bouchard loves Wimbledon.

As in, really, really loves it. 

When she sets foot inside the All-England Club every year, she jokes that she just wants to roll around in the grass, sleep on the courts at night.

Well, she’s not quite joking, although the All-England Club’s mysterious Committee would probably frown on such public displays of grass affection.

“I have emotions like everyone. Maybe I keep it inside a little more, and try to stay private about some things. But things affect me, and it’s really special to be here,” Bouchard said on the eve of this year’s edition. 

“The first day, I can’t help smiling, jumping, I want to roll in the grass, I want to sleep on the courts at night. It’s like my dreams, becoming reality.”

There’s a feeling the 23-year-old Canadian gets when she walks into the place she says you can’t quite explain to people who haven’t experienced it.  

And every year, whether the tournament goes well or doesn’t, whether she plays well or doesn’t, she feels it just the same wondrous way.

Here are some thoughts from Bouchard on the eve of the 2017 edition. 

 

Bouchard will face Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain in the first round on Monday. And, as it happened, she was scheduled to practice with Suárez Navarro on Saturday.

“It’s something that happens sometimes,” she said of the timing. “Our coaches talked, and we all said, ‘No, we won’t practice two days before our match.’ “

Instead, Bouchard hit with Anastasija Sevastova, who defeated her in the second round at the French Open this spring, in the morning on the match courts.

Saturday afternoon, she hit with Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic who, as it happens, defeated her in the first round of the US Open last summer.

She practiced with American Shelby Rogers on Sunday. Rogers was on the other side of the court for those infamous moments in Montreal at the Rogers Cup a few years ago.

Not that it was intentional. But if Bouchard was trying to erase a few demons, throw a curve into the karma, she couldn’t have chosen better.

Here’s what it looked like on Saturday.

Preparation not ideal

The grass-court season in preparation for Wimbledon was not a success for Bouchard. Although getting back on court and playing matches, despite not having time to properly rehab the ankle she injured in Nürnberg before the French Open, was a positive.

Bouchard will wear the brace on her right ankle for Wimbledon. And she may wear it for the rest of the season.

She had no expectations going to Mallorca, where she lost to Francesca Schiavone. And while there were bright spots in the loss to Barbora Strycova at Eastbourne – especially in the second set – it still was another first-round defeat.

Bouchard’s history with Suárez Navarro is, overall, a positive one. She lost to her at Wimbledon in 2013. But Bouchard was just 19 then, in the year following her victory in the juniors. And getting to the third round was a victory in itself.

She defeated her on the Spaniard’s favourite surface at the 2014 French Open, during her run to the semi-finals that year. It was a dramatic, impressive victory.

And she came close to defeating Suárez Navarro at the Italian Open in 2015. That was a period when things really weren’t going well at all, when Bouchard was scuffling under the weight of pressure and expectation and was having some major issues with her new coach, Sam Sumyk.

Still, she pushed Suárez Navarro to the limit on clay, losing 6-7 (2) 7-5, 7-6 (7).

Keeping a low Slam profile

The Canadian comes into her favourite tournament looking as though she has been putting in the hard yards in the gym. And unlike some previous years, she’s eschewing any media obligations that aren’t mandatory.

She even skipped the annual WTA party, a yearly rite of passage in which the female players spend two hours getting done up for a party that lasts less than half that amount of time.

“I still can’t wear high heels! I’m just trying to concentrate on myself, and what I have to do. I stay at home; it’s very quiet here. I adore it. Just trying to keep things simple and not be out in the world too much,” she told Tennis.Life. 

“It’s much more relaxing. I don’t have to think about anything else, I don’t have to put any expectations on anything,” she added.

Unlike last year, when the flyaway baby-doll dress made for salacious photo-ops and much criticism from the traditionalists, this year’s Nike Wimbledon reveal will be pretty quiet.

No wardrobe malfunctions

Bouchard won’t even be wearing a dress at all.

The way it seems to work is that when the rank-and-file Nike-ers wear two pieces, she wears a dress. And when the regular-issue kit is a dress (as it is this year, judging from what everyone was wearing during qualifying), Bouchard goes in the other direction.

So, a skirt and top. The top is cropped, but not nearly to the same extent as the tops she was wearing earlier in the season, in Australia and Indian Wells/Miami. 

Bouchard is staying at a rented house at Wimbledon right behind the practice court facility. And, for the first time in a long time, her father Mike is on hand to support her.

Bouchard
Bouchard’s father Mike – not a presence in recent years – has been on this grass-court trip through Mallorca, Eastbourne and now Wimbledon. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

There have been trying times in the Bouchard family in recent years – as there often are when there’s a divorce, and children are involved.

But things seem to be getting back on track on the personal side, which can only be a bonus when you need every little bit of your focus to be on the tennis court.