The Australian Open tuneup event in Hobart, Tasmania announced early Wednesday morning (Hobart time) that it has awarded a singles wild card to Canadian Genie Bouchard.
The tournament is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018.
Bouchard reached the final in 2016, the first time she played the event.
Here are the requisite press-release quotes.
“I’m excited to be coming back to Hobart in 2018 and am really appreciative of the tournament for giving me a wildcard. t will be great preparation for the Australian Open, hopefully I’ll get a lot of good court time just like I did when I made the final in 2016.”
“Hobart is a beautiful city and the support I received in my last visit was amazing, so I’m looking forward to seeing all my Tasmanian fans again too.”
Tournament director Darren Sturgess:
“Eugenie has a great history with the Hobart International and we are excited she will be back once again in January – and I’m sure her many fans will be too. I am confident that Eugenie will return to the top of the tennis rankings and believe that Hobart has the potential to be a great launch pad for her in 2018.
“A wildcard entry has never won the tournament, so there’s extra incentive for Eugenie to make some history of her own in what promises to be a special week as the event celebrates its 25th edition.”
Bouchard defending points
Because of its International-level status, Hobart doesn’t command the same interest as a competing Premier-level tournament in Sydney the same week.
Among the other entries are three former champions: Elise Mertens, Alizé Cornet and Mona Barthel. Also on the list are Shuai Zhang and Sorana Cirstea.
A year ago, Bouchard was given a wild card into the bigger Sydney event in an exchange with Tennis Canada.
She reached the semifinal, losing to Johanna Konta but defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Dominika Cibulkova along the way.
Bouchard earned 185 ranking points for making that semifinal. She would have to reach the Hobart final (worth 180 points) to defend that result.
If there were going to be any suspense in the coming months about whether Canadian Genie Bouchard would return to Fed Cup action in the first round of the 2018 event, it was quashed on Monday.
The New York Open, which is the newly relocated Memphis Open men’s ATP Tour event, announced that Bouchard along with US Open champion Sloane Stephens, John McEnroe and James Blake will be taking part in a tournament-opening exhibition Feb. 11.
On Feb. 11, the Canadian Fed Cup team will be playing the second day of its first-round World Group II tie in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
The US team, of which Stephens was a part last weekend in a victorious effort against Belarus in the championship final, will be in Asheville, NC hosting the Netherlands in its first-round tie.
So that’s that.
No Fed Cup, no Doha
Bouchard last played Fed Cup in April 2015 in Montreal, when Canada faced the same Romania team (minus Simona Halep) to remain in World Group I.
Ranked No. 7 in the world at the time, the Canadian lost her singles matches against Alexandra Dulgheru and Andreea Mitu.
The week following Fed Cup week is the Premier 5 tournament in Doha, UAE. And the appearance could cost Bouchard that tournament as well.
The Canadian’s current ranking stands at No. 81, and she has over 300 ranking points to defend in January at Sydney and the Australian Open. She would most likely need to play the qualifying (unless Doha is planning to give her a wild card).
Obviously, with this commitment, she couldn’t be in the Middle East that same weekend to play it.
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.
Against 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.
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.
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.
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.
After that, only one week remains before Melbourne.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Coincidentally, Sharapova also has a wild card into Beijing, announced last month.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).