Will she, or won’t she? A shaky question

If there is one moment in Genie Bouchard’s tumultuous career that, all on its own, turned a lot of tennis fans against her, it was the handshake.

Rather, the non-handshake. And then, the non-handshake sequel.

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So as the 24-year-old from Montreal returns home for Fed Cup this weekend, in the lineup for the first time in three years, the exercise in watching grass grow that is the Friday draw ceremony – especially the part where the prospective opponents shake and smile for photos – will become a flash point.

You wouldn’t want her to swung and miss for strike three.

Currently ranked No. 117, Bouchard has enough challenges this weekend.

She will try to kickstart a tough season and post one, ideally two, victories against Ukraine for herself and for her country.

Strike one: 2014 vs. Slovakia

If Canada can’t take the tie, it would have to go back down to the zonal competition in 2019.

And on the other side, despite the absence of Elina Svitolina, there are two very solid, experienced players in Kateryna Bondarenko and Lesia Tsurenko to try to stop them.

The Genie Show

The draw ceremony takes place Friday, at noon, at a downtown Montreal hotel. And the handshake moment likely won’t be the only awkward part of the event.

Strike two: 2015 vs. Romania

Bouchard hasn’t really met the local Montreal media since the Rogers Cup in the summer of 2016. It’s been an eventful 20 months.

And there were no opportunities through the week, or at least since Bouchard arrived from California on Wednesday.

New Fed Cup guidelines have removed the obligation of all team members to attend at least one pre-draw press conference during the week. 

If the concept was to somehow “lessen the load” in a bid to encourage the top players to play more often, as was the case with the men, it’s a double-edged sword. (Plus, we’ll note that, unlike the men in Davis Cup, the women haven’t eliminated the rubber-chicken banquet on the Thursday night).

Fed Cup is such an afterthought here during the NHL hockey playoffs that the national sports network that owns the television rights isn’t even broadcasting it on television, only online. 

So getting Bouchard out there in the media would definitely give the event a boost. But with a modest, 1,500 seat stadium setup, Tennis Canada has hedged its bets.

And so there has been no opportunity to get all the Bouchard “business” out of the way before the serious stuff of playing tennis begins.

Well, that’s not quite true. A group of young children were invited in for a “press conference” with her. Which is just making fun, really.

Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau stood in for Bouchard on Wednesday, talking about Bouchard.

All within the rules

No one, including Tennis Canada or Bouchard, is breaking any rules (there’s a fine of up to $10,000 if they do). 

But what’s going to happen on Friday if past history is any indication is that in the only Bouchard media opportunity, the other three players will also be sitting up on the stage. And nearly every question will be directed to Bouchard.

And it will be awkward for everyone: her teammates, and the media.

Here’s what happened four years ago, for the Feb. 2014 tie against Serbia.

Along with that, all eyes will turn towards the Fed Cup draw board, and the official photos.

Flash back to April, 2014 and exactly a year later in April, 2015 (pardon the quality of the video; it was early days).

So the big question will be answered on Friday: will she, or won’t she?

Bruneau did tell Tennis.Life Wednesday that he likely would bring it up with her.

Will it be third-time lucky?

One thing’s for sure. Friday’s draw ceremony will have a little more spice than these things typically do.

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