WTA Tour says farewell to Singapore (photos)

The WTA moved its season-ending event – the crown-jewel event of its season, and its biggest revenue generator – to Asia for the first time in 2014.

It was clearly a “follow the money” move, as so many decisions by the women’s tennis association have been in recent years.

At the time, the WTA said it had received “expressions of interest” from 43 cities. Singapore was chosen over finalists Tianjin (China), Monterrey (Mexico) and Kazan (Russia).

Then-CEO Stacey Allaster said the event represented 35-40 percent of the tour’s net operating revenues. And that the deal was worth more than the $14 million US a year it generated during the three-year stint in Istanbul.

The prize money for the first year in 2014 was upped to $6.5 million, as Allaster said it would rise more from there over the length of the deal.

That didn’t really happen, to any significant extent. It was raised to $7 million in 2015 – and remained at that level for the rest of the Singapore stay.

farewell

(2010: Doha; 2011-13: Istanbul; 2014-18: Singapore; 2019- : Shenzhen)

The offer from Shenzhen, where the tournament will move next year, will double the prize money to $14 million.

Photos from 2014

It was a happier, more innocent time. 🙂

We covered the inaugural event in 2014, which seemed to create a fair amount of engagement in the city and was spectacularly well put on by the organizers.

(The players were: Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki and, in her career-making 2014 season finale, Genie Bouchard. There was a significant amount of star power for this one, with some of the most high-profile and popular players in recent years).

Here are some of the pics from that year.

Yes, there are a lot of photos of Bouchard. That was the main reason for being there, as the lone Canadian journalist. But there also are photos of the scenes, the other players and the activities.

Scenes:

Players:

In the press room:

Genie Bouchard – with Halep, Williams and Ivanovic:

The attendance was impressive – announced at 129,000 for the first year. That was a bit misleading, as the WTA’s report at the time indicates that number was for fans attracted “to the Singapore Sports Hub during the 10 days of tennis, entertainment and business.”

The actual match attendance was put at “more than 93,000” through 14 sessions, including three reserved for the “Rising Stars” event featured the first couple of years. That’s an average of 6,642 per session, with the final being the last of four sellouts, at 9,986 fans.

Attendance numbers well-spun

Attendance for the second edition in 2015 was announced at 130,000, but over 18 sessions. While it was difficult to judge the fullness of the stands with the dark lighting, sources on site indicated that they weren’t nearly as full as the first year. 

That’s not unusual, as the first year was impressive. And in any event of this nature, the novelty is more likely than not to  wear off by Year 2 in an area of the planet without any sort of established tennis tradition.

farewell

For 2016, the WTA Tour didn’t announce any official attendance figure. 

In 2017, the WTA announced attendance as 133,000, over only 11 sessions with no legends, and the straight-elimination doubles draw.  By those numbers, the event would have had 11 sellouts, plus another 23,000 fans attending the experience. Might be a little … optimistic.

This year, there’s been no number announced although, as we laid out here, there were plenty of good seats available for every session.

WTA CEO Steve Simon, in his season-ending press conference last week, said he expected a record.

“I think that you can see that through this year we will have record attendance again. I believe it will exceed last year’s 133,000 people. You have seen it the first few nights at the event. You have seen it in the evolution of the fans here,” Simon said.

Law of diminishing returns

Perhaps the lesson to be learned from Singapore is that a five-year stay helps create, as Allaster said when the venue was announced, financial stability. But in a country without an established tennis fan base – the type of fan base you need to fill an arena for a week or more – it’s a challenge to keep an event growing.

The players who would attract the less-than-diehard tennis fans – notably, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova – have not been annual attendees.

Williams played only once in Singapore – the first year in 2014, when she defeated Halep in the final.

farewell

Sharapova qualified in 2014 (exiting after the pool stage) and 2015 (undefeated in the round robin, but out in the semifinals to Kvitova). But she hasn’t played since.

The challenge with the new 10-year commitment in Shenzhen, China will be the same – except double.

Shenzhen has double the population base to draw from. And it’s also near several other large population hubs. And it does have somewhat more of a tennis tradition with annual WTA and ATP Tour events held there.

Halep does the double in Shenzhen

“The largest and most significant WTA Finals deal in the 45 years since the WTA was founded and promises to take the event to a spectacular new level,” Simon said when the deal was announced.

A 10-year commitment

The prize-money pool will double, to $14 million in 2019.

The deal, according to Sports Business Journal, is reportedly worth close to … $1 billion. That’s $100 million a year, or more than seven times the reported value of the deal in Istanbul five years ago even though the prize money is “only” doubled.

Simon told the New York Times the deal was actually worth in excess of that figure. But that number includes the reported $450 million to be spent on the new indoor arena to be built, which the WTA won’t actually own, “and other real-estate elements”. Simon also said that the share of the WTA’s total revenues generated by the event is now less than that 35-40 per cent figure stated a few years ago by Allaster.

It’s a number that stretches credulity, on the face of it. Let’s just say it’s right up there with he WTA’s $525 million, 10-year live media rights and production deal with beIN and Perform, and the 25-year, $3 billion deal between the ITF and the Kosmos Group for the “new” Davis Cup.

(After the first two years of the five-year deal with beIN, the rights in the U.S. have switched over to the Tennis Channel for 2019).

The new arena in Shenzhen won’t be ready in time for the inaugural edition in 2019.

Farewell Singapore, hello Shenzhen

The main priority, though, is that the WTA be able to create a lasting, significant tennis tradition in new its home.

The WTA couldn’t confirm that the annual WTA stop in Shenzhen, which takes place just two months after the Tour Finals, would survive. So it may have to find another home in Asia (or Australia, for that matter) for a tournament amidst a tricky time within the game.

The ATP Tour is planning a team event beginning in 2020. And that tournament looks to taking place in several venues where there are currently joint WTA/ATP events. Among the possibilities are Perth (where the Hopman Cup is in danger). Also being considered are Brisbane (well-attended by the top WTA players) and Sydney, the week before the Australian Open.

Shenzhen is so far away from North America and Europe that it’s not going to be able to count on hordes of women’s tennis fans making the long, expensive trip. So it’s going to have to find its market around that part of China. That was, of course, also true in Singapore.

There are enough people in the area; that’s for sure. The challenge will be get them to the event, and keep them coming.

Michael Joyce on coaching trial with … Genie Bouchard

Experienced coaches don’t stay unemployed for long on the WTA Tour.

As word leaked out in the Daily Mail that Great Britain’s Johanna Konta and her coach of one year, Michael Joyce, had gone their separate ways, tennis.life learned from an extremely reliable source that the 45-year-old American already is on a coaching trial with another player.

And that player is … Canada’s Genie Bouchard.

We’re told that that Joyce has been in Tel Aviv, Israel, where Bouchard went for some treatment on her foot, for the last week or so.

And that they’re headed to Luxembourg to test it out in the WTA Tour stop there next week.

Bouchard remains some 15 spots out of the main draw in Luxembourg. So qualifying looks like the route unless the tournament awards her a wild card into the main draw.

The duo is expected there on Wednesday.

Jo Konta on the coaching search – again

Coaching carousel in 2018

Bouchard’s coaching situation in 2018 has been intermittent and inconsistent, which makes it even more difficult when a player is trying to regain lost form and confidence.

She began the season with veteran American coach Harold Solomon in her camp. But Solomon severed ties just before Bouchard played the qualifying at the Miami Open in March.

Harold Solomon leaves Team Genie Bouchard

In fact, for her first-round qualifying match against American Allie Kiick, Solomon was sitting in the opponent’s camp.

After Charleston in April, the 24-year-old Canadian flew to California and had a training period with legendary American coach Robert Lansdorp.

Genie Bouchard turns to Robert Lansdorp

But Lansdorp, 79, isn’t up to full-time travel. He did go to Europe for the grass season, but that was the bulk of it.

Sinner in the summer

Bouchard then called upon Martin Sinner, the German who had worked with her as a junior, during the short clay-court swing after Wimbledon.

In the meantime, the toll it has taken on Bouchard’s stroke technique – notably the serve – has been fairly evident through a tough stretch of defeats.

Three of those losses – in Vancouver, Hiroshima and Tashkent – came at the hands of 23-year-old Nao Hibino, currently ranked No. 125.

Luxembourg is the final week of the WTA season. So the opportunity to test things out with Joyce is limited.

Bouchard could play one or both of the WTA 125K tournaments in Limoges, France in early November, and in Houston the week after that, if she wants more match play going into the off-season.

Bouchard is currently ranked No. 110, dropping two spots while idle last week.

One consideration, with the announcement that the Australian Open will increase the women’s singles qualifying from 96 to 128 players, is that there will be 16 qualifiers in the main draw. 

Previously, there were 12 from a 96-player draw. So that means four fewer players will gain direct entry at the deadline. For players in the No. 100 – No. 110 range, that’s not a minor thing.

Bigger, better Australian Open kicks off

Longtime former Sharapova coach

Joyce worked with Jessica Pegula and Victoria Azarenka before the season with Konta.

But prior to that, he was the longtime coach of Maria Sharapova.

In that sense, he’s always been on the Bouchard family radar. Pegula and Bouchard also have played doubles together.

That might be past tense, though, as Bouchard no longer acknowledges Sharapova as her childhood idol.

So there’s a certain irony to the timing of this.

As usual in the WTA off-season there is plenty of musical chairs on the coaching side. So Joyce may well find himself very much in demand as players try to get their teams together in preparation for the 2018 offseason, and the 2019 season.

Report: Milos Raonic’s agent fired, still managing him

TORONTO – As Milos Raonic prepares for a challenging first-round match against David Goffin of Belgium Monday night at his hometown Rogers Cup, word is out that his longtime agent at CAA was terminated last fall.

But Amit Naor remains the 27-year-old Canadian’s manager.

Rumours about this had been circulating for awhile. But Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal, an excellent journalist, was able to nail it all down in a story published Monday.

Kaplan has broken the news that Naor was fired last Oct. 23, after a 2 1/2-month investigation into workplace harassment.

CAA made no official announcement of any kind about the matter.

Out of respect for the extensive work Kaplan did over a significant period of time in breaking this story, we won’t cut and paste it here. Click here to read the piece.

Here is a brief summary.

“Verbal, emotional and sexual harassment”

According to Kaplan, tennis manager Stephanie Lopez, now 28, went to the head of CAA’s tennis division, Steven Heumann last fall alleging that Naor, 51, subjected her to “verbal, emotional and sexual harassment”.

She is currently on leave.

Kaplan also reports that Lopez filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the spring. Lopez said she “endured multiple incidents of retaliation” from Heumann after the firing.

A CAA spokesperson told Kaplan their investigation determined there was no retaliation.

Kaplan reports that even after he was fired, Naor remained a manager for three CAA clients. And, in that capacity has communication with the company’s agents.

agent
Raonic, Berdych and Dominic Thiem are reportedly still being managed by Naor, even though CAA terminated his employment.

In addition to Raonic, those two other clients also are high profile:  Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych.

As of last fall, on the official ATP list (likely not exhaustive or 100 per cent accurate), Thiem was listed officially as being represented by his coach, Gunther Bresnik although Kaplan reports that both Bresnik and Naor manage Thiem’s affairs.

Fadi Shalabi of Sporting Advantage Monaco was listed for Berdych.  Naor is listed for Raonic.

Also on Naor’s client list as of last fall were Ernests Gulbis, Taylor Fritz, Bradley Klahn and Bernard Tomic.

Naor represented Jack Sock early in his career. He also handled Novak Djokovic’s business affairs very early on – a decade ago – before Djokovic signed with CAA and Naor also joined the company. Djokovic left CAA in 2012.

He also coached Marat Safin.

agent
Naor with Raonic’s father, Dusan, supporting Raonic at Wimbledon.

The Israel-born Naor played professionally from 1985 to 1991. He reached a career high in singles of No. 245 in 1987 although he won just three matches at the ATP Tour level. Five of his six ATP Tournament appearances came at the now-defunct ATP event in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The CAA tennis division is small, and Naor’s clients reportedly make up the bulk of its revenue.

Raonic’s countrywoman, Genie Bouchard, also joined the CAA stable this spring, after stints with Lagardère, IMG and other agencies. She is represented by Matthew Fawcett.

WTA Rankings Report – July 23, 2018

No changes in the top 20, except for Bucharest champion Anastasija Sevastova jumping back into it, as the top guns take a post-Wimbledon break.

There’s an extra little bonus clay-court swing in Europe, just before the North American summer hard-court season begins. And a new Premier-level clay-court tournament in Moscow this week.

Many of the players are in Florida (and elsewhere) training.

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys played an exhibition at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, in conjunction with the annual inductions and the ATP Tour event.

The only two top-20 players this week at the Russian national championships (also known as the Moscow River Cup) and the Chinese national championships (also known as Nanchang) are Julia Goerges and Daria Kasatkina, the top two seeds in Moscow.

But in the meantime, a lot of players made moves.

ON THE UPSWING

rankingsAnastasija Sevastova (LAT): No. 22 ————> No. 20 (The winner in Bucharest is back in the top 20).

Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU): No. 25 ————> No. 24 (Another career high for the Romanian, making up for lost time).

Alizé Cornet (FRA): No. 48 ————> No. 34 (The Frenchwoman wins Gstaad, her first title since Hobart at the start of 2016).

Petra Martic (CRO): No. 60 ————> No. 51 (Bucharest finalist)

Samantha Stosur (AUS): No. 73 ————> No. 64

Vera Lapko (BLR): No. 72 ————> No. 69 (Career high for the 19-year-old from Belarus).

Yafan Wang (CHN): No. 84 ————> No. 71

Polona Hercog (SLO): No. 90 ————> No. 75 (Semifinalist in Bucharest)

Evgeniya Rodina (RUS): No. 92 ————> No. 84 (Had to qualify at Wimbledon, but that won’t be a problem going forward).

rankingsMarketa Vondrousova (CZE): No. 104 ————> No. 92 (The Czech made the Gstaad semis).

Nicole Gibbs (USA): No. 116 ————> No. 111

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN): No. 146 ————> No. 123 (Was looking good until the groin injury in Gstaad semis).

Sabina Sharipova (UZB): No. 144 ————> No. 127 (Career high for the 23-year-old from Uzbekistan after reaching the final in Astana).

Mandy Minella (LUX): No. 226 ————> No. 142 (Jumps up after her first career WTA Tour singles final).

Karolina Muchova (CZE): No. 218 ————> No. 179 (The 21-year-old whose all-court impressed in a loss to Bouchard in Wimbledon qualifying reaches a career high after reaching the Olomouc final).

Rebecca Marino (CAN): No. 427 ————> No. 329 (Her points for winning the Winnipeg Challenger two weeks ago show up, and give her a nice bump).

ON THE DOWNSWING

rankingsIrina-Camelia Begu (ROU): No. 43 ————> No. 56 (The defending champion in Bucharest dropped out in the first round, but won the doubles at least).

Tatjana Maria (GER): No. 69 ————> No. 81

Johanna Larsson (SWE): No. 77 ————> No. 85

Ana Bogdan (ROU): No. 66 ————> No. 87 (Lost first round in Bucharest after reaching the semifinals a year ago).

Bernarda Pera (USA): No. 78 ————> No. 95

Caroline Dolehide (USA): No. 102 ————> No. 116 (Luckily, she still looks good for the US Open main draw)

Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU): No. 125 ————> No. 145

(For the complete WTA Tour rankings picture, click here).

One more win, and Bouchard is in

ROEHAMPTON – The confines of the Bank of England Sport Ground are unfamiliar territory to 2014 Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard.

But through two matches in the Wimbledon qualifying, she has gotten the job done.

And now, only Mariana Duque-Mariño of Colombia stands in the way of a sixth appearance in the main draw.

After rolling over China’s Zhu Lin in the first round, Bouchard found more substantial opposition Wednesday in unheralded 21-year-old Karolina Muchova.

There were some frustrating moments, as the Czech’s all-court game proved effective. And Bouchard had some issues with her own serve.

But in the end, she pulled through 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 to advance to the final round.

All of Bouchard’s matches have been on the one streamed court at Roehampton, Court 11. And so her fans around the world have been able to watch.

That will once again be true on Thursday, as she faces a player she has beaten twice, on clay, but hasn’t played in more than five years.

Lansdorp in the house

Bouchard has had legendary coach Robert Lansdorp with her during the grass-court season, even though she has not played many matches.

She made her debut in Birmingham about 10 days ago, and posted two solid victories before losing 6-4 in the third set to Jennifer Brady in the final round of qualifying there.

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Despite the heat, the 79-year-old Lansdorp was out there for every second of both of Bouchard’s matches Wednesday at Roehampton. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Now, two more wins in Roehampton. And you could hear Lansdorp constantly urging her on from his seat in the stands, calling out “You got this, baby”.

Speaking to him briefly after the win over Muchova, Lansdorp said that at this stage of her career, it’s not about making major changes in her game as it is about getting her back to doing what she does best. And that’s what he’s going to try to help her with.

Doubles qualifying one and done

After the singles, Bouchard returned to a smaller court with American Caroline Dolehide, to play their first match in the doubles qualifying.

The Can-American pair lost to Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands and Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium, 7-5, 6-2. They had an early break in the first set, but in the end they had too much trouble winning points on their first serves (just 44 per cent).

Schoofs and Bonaventure went 6-for-8 on break points, while Bouchard and Dolehide could convert just 3-of-12.

On the plus side, there was a Genie Bouchard serve-and-volley sighting – although she didn’t end up having to hit the volley in the end.

Woman of few words

Bouchard’s brief post-match, on-court interview after the win over Zhu went around the interwebs fairly quickly, because of the brevity of the responses and the general demeanour.

(The Canadian did not want to do the interview; her first response when the Wimbledon official informed her that it was customary for the players on Court 11 to stop and answer a few questions from their own crew was: “Do I have to?”)

After the second-round win (and perhaps after a word from the All-England Club), Bouchard was a little more expansive.

“I didn’t feel like i was playing all that well, so I’m just glad I was able to keep myself collected in that third set, and find a way,” Bouchard said. “(Muchova)  played well, you know. She’s young. I don’t know if she’s an up-and-comer or what. She was serve and volleying, she was slicing, she was mixing it up. But I was able to handle it in the third.”

Who is Karolina Muchova?

ROEHAMPTON – Who is Karolina Muchova, the 21-year-old Czech who is playing Canadian Genie Bouchard in the second round of Wimbledon qualifying Wednesday?

Many times over the last 24 hours, we’ve heard this: “Who is she? Literally never heard of her.”

Muchova is ranked No. 223 in singles, down from a career high No. 192 in April. 

She had a good result at a $60,000 ITF tournament in March in France, on hard courts. Muchova qualified and reached the final, giving her opponent a walkover in that final match.

A year ago at the Surbiton Challenger on grass, she qualified and reached the quarterfinals.

On the Grand Slam scene, this is only her third attempt in the qualifying, and her 6-3, 6-4 win over Ivana Jorovic of Serbia Tuesday was her first win.

Muchova’s junior career was not much to speak of.  She played a total of three main-draw match at the ITF level – all of tham in lower-level Grade 4 tournaments.

But here’s the thing: the girl has game.

We happened to pass by her match with Jorovic Tuesday. And all of a sudden this young woman was … serving and volleying on the court. On purpose.

Had she made more first serves, she’d likely have done it even more.

When you see that on the women’s side, you stop and look.

Scouting report

Muchova appeared to hit quite a heavy ball from the baseline, but her willingness to come forward was what stood out. Her slice backhand was a legitimate one, not one of those “Oh God, she sliced me and now I have to slice her back because I don’t know what else to do with that ball” kind of bluffs.

It was the true definition of an all-court game that should work well, especially on grass.

So regardless of her seemingly slow ascent in the rankings, Muchova seems to have been well-taught and has all the elements of a solid game.

Will she be nervous against Bouchard, with the match available on broadcast and stream, and Bouchard’s resumé containing “former Wimbledon finalist”?

She may well be.

We’ll see. She took the court wearing random pieces of white Nike she probably bought in the shop – and shorts! – while her opponent came out with brand-new, perfectly coordinated gear.

As well, Bouchard played a super match in her first-round win over Lin Zhu, and a couple of good ones last week at Birmingham as well.

Wimbledon qualifying roundup – The Canadians (Photos)

ROEHAMPTON – So far, the Canadian effort in Wimbledon qualifying has been a mixed bag.

The good news is that Genie Bouchard and Bianca Andreescu are through to the second round on the women’s side.

And even better, veteran Peter Polansky and Wimbledon rookie Brayden Schnur have won two matches each, and are in the final round of the men’s singles qualifying.

On the down side, Françoise Abanda, Carol Zhao and Filip Peliwo all dropped their first-round matches.

Here’s a roundup, some impressions, and some pics.

Brayden Schnur on a roll

1st rd: def. Santiago Giraldo (COL) 6-4, 7-5
2nd rd: def. Andrea Collarini (ARG) 6-1, 6-2
Final rd: vs. Christian Harrison (USA)

Schnur is playing his first-ever Wimbledon qualifying. As a junior, even though he got to No. 26 in the world, he never even played at Wimbledon, losing his first-round junior boys’ qualifying match in his only attempt.

But he made it. And after two impressive wins, he needs one more to make the main draw of his first Grand Slam tournament.

He has been helped by former Tour player and Tennis Canada coach Fred Niemeyer for nearly a year now. And although his ranking has dipped some since the beginning of the year, he seems to be playing better tennis. So the results are sure to come.

The final round of qualifying is best-of-five sets. It will be a first for Schnur. His opponent Christian Harrison also is playing his first Wimbledon, and will be playing his first best-of-five match.

Genie Bouchard to face Muchova

1st rd: def. Zhu Lin (CHN) 60 62
2nd rd: vs. Karolina Muchova (CZE)

This is the first-ever qualifying at Wimbledon for Bouchard.

After winning the junior event in 2012, she was straight into the main draw in 2013 and, a year later, made the singles final.

But her fortunes have dipped. And she is visiting Roehampton for the first time since the player the junior tune-up event here in 2012.

If precedent helps at all, she won the singles (beating her friend Carol Zhao in the final and Belinda Bencic in the semis) and the doubles with Taylor Townsend. She repeated both those titles the following week at the All-England Club.

On Tuesday, she faced Zhu Lin, the No. 18 seed. And she had no issues getting through, 6-0, 6-2 in just 51 minutes.

Bouchard had nine aces; her opponent had seven double faults as they were assigned Court 11 – the only court from Roehampton that is broadcast and streamed.

The Canadian drew by far the biggest crowd of scheduled matches, which was probably to be expected. 

But she came off court in quite the mood, failing to even be civil to the perfectly lovely woman who was doing on the on-court interviews there (after asking if she absolutely was required to do the interview as the women was standing just a few feet away).

Bouchard was then definitive in opting not to speak to any of the media that had made requests, even her home-country television network.

[8] Peter Polansky into final round

1st rd: def. Yang Tsung-Hua (TPE) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
2nd rd: def. [WC] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP) 75 62
Final rd: vs. Jason Kubler (AUS)

Polansky was a couple of matches away from finally breaking the top-100 last week at the Ilkley Challenger. If he wants to get close here, he will have to qualify and win a couple of rounds in the main draw.

After a slow start against his first opponent, the 30-year-old rolled and on Tuesday, he defeated last year’ junior champion Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who received a wild card into the qualifying.

This is Polansky’s eighth attempt to qualify at Wimbledon. He hasn’t been successful so far, reaching the final round only one other time.

That was a year ago, when he lost a heartbreaker to Stefano Travaglia of Italy after being up two sets to one.

He plays Jason Kubler of Australia, who was in the Wimbledon qualifying only once before (in 2015) and has never made the main draw of any Slam.

During a seven-year period up until last year, Kubler played just four events away from the clay, to preserve a pair of truly disappointing knees. But some extensive rehab has helped and he looked quite at home Tuesday.

roundup

Kubler defeated Adam Pavlasek of the Czech Republic 12-10 in the third set, with a host of Aussies on hand to support including Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt.

The intrigue in this one is that Polansky and Kubler two met for the very first time just last week, in the quarterfinals of the Ilkley Challenger on grass.

Had Polansky won that match, he would have been as close as he’s ever gotten to the top 100. And he was up a set, too. But he lost it 6-2 in the third.

Antonia Lottner def. Françoise Abanda 7-5, 6-4

Abanda has dealt with a few injury issues over the last two months, beginning with the blow to the head she suffered when she slipped during the warmup before her scheduled Fed Cup match in Montreal in April.

There were also problemswith her hand and her feet. And when she finally got back to the court a month after Fed Cup, she had to retire in her second match at an ITF in Slovakia because of a bronchial infection.

Abanda lost in the first round of the French Open qualifying after being up a set and a break on Martina Trevisan of Italy. And after another three weeks, she lost in the first round of qualifying at Birmingham, in her only grass-court match before the Wimbledon qualifying.

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Lottner (far left) and Abanda met in the junior girls’ doubles at Wimbledon, all the way back in 2012. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Abanda’s opponent on Tuesday, Antonia Lottner (six months older), played a far more aggressive game (23 trips to net), and had 10 aces to Abanda’s one. She played a terrific match. And Abanda must now head back to the drawing board.

She had qualified and reached the second round both in Paris and London a year ago. So the damage to the 21-year-old’s ranking will be substantial: 220 of the 393 ranking points she had will disappear, which could drop her ranking somewhere in the No. 290 range.

Bad luck for Carol Zhao

1st rd: lost to Deborah Chiesa (ITA) 6-2, 5-7, 6-3

Canada’s top-ranked Canadian had been dealing with an arm issue through the last several weeks. And it hampered her during an otherwise impressive effort against former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the Roland Garros qualifying.

On Tuesday, in her first trip to Wimbledon since 2013 and her first attempt at qualifying, she faced Italy’s Deborah Chiesa.

Zhao, seeded No. 20, was the favorite. And she undoubtedly knows her way around a grass court better than Chiesa.

But another bit of bad luck befell her.

It happened here – and, in a peculiar twist of fate, she won the second set sitting on her butt on the grass.

roundup

Zhao hurt her left knee and although she gave it full effort in the third set, it was an uphill battle.

Andreescu rolls to second round

1st rd: def. Grace Min (USA) 6-2, 6-0
2nd rd: vs. [4] YingYing Duan (CHN)

Bianca Andreescu, who qualified at Wimbledon a year ago in her first attempt, found the going pretty easy in her first match this year.

roundup
Andreescu warms up for her first-round Wimbledon qualifying match Tuesday at Roehampton. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

She needed just 54 minutes to defeat Min, who didn’t break the 40 per cent success rate on either her first or second serve.

(Unfortunately, we didn’t see a single second of this match, as that time was devoted in a futile effort to get the other two Canadian women to agree to do interviews).

In the second round, Andreescu will face No. 4 seed Ying Ying Duan, who dropped just three games in beating Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey.

Duan, as it happens, was the qualifier who shocked Bouchard in the first round of the 2015 tournament, the year after the Canadian reached the final.

Peliwo gets tough draw

1st rd: lost to Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 7-5, 6-2

Last but not least, Filip Peliwo found himself up against a pretty tough customer in his first-round qualifying match.

That would be former top-10 player Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, who has never had great success at Wimbledon (relatively speaking) but does have a lot of experience.

Gulbis had played Wimbledon 10 times before this year, and this was the first time he played the qualifying.

Peliwo stayed right with him until 5-5 in the first set. At that point, Peliwo made too many errots, and Gulbis pulled away.

For Peliwo, who was the junior Wimbledon boys’ champion the same year Bouchard won the girls’ title, it was a tough draw in his second attempt at the qualifying.

The first one was five years ago, in 2013, when he received a wild card because he won the boys’ title the previous year (like Davidovich Fokina this year). It took him five years to get back – and he sees a former top-10 on the other side of the net.

Coaching musical chairs as Schaap joins Team ‘Penko

When the tennis world descends upon Wimbledon, there are going to be several new coach-player pairings to look out for.

And on the women’s side, it’s truly a game of musical chairs.

Just weeks after Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit announced she was moving from Glenn Schaap to a three-month trial with Brit Nigel Sears, Schaap already has a new gig.

Tennis.Life has learned that the 50-year-old from the Netherlands, who also has worked with top-five players Dinara Safina, Nadia Petrova and Jelena Dokic during his career, has joined Team Jelena Ostapenko on a trial basis.

And, after Ostapenko ended things with another veteran coach, Aussie David Taylor, Taylor moved on to American Madison Keys.

There had been talk a few weeks ago that this would happen, never officially confirmed. but the Taylor-Keys pairing is reportedly already in London and practicing in preparation for Wimbledon.

After a long run with Samantha Stosur, Taylor worked with Naomi Osaka last year.

Schaap
Taylor and Ostapenko seemed congenial enough a few months ago at Indian Wells, but he was gone by May. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Not a secure gig

Ostapenko won the French Open last year but was shocked in the first round this time around. She has yet to settle on a solid, permanent coaching situation in her young career even if her mother, who is a tennis coach, is always on hand.

Taylor joined Team ‘Penko in Australia. But he didn’t last four months.

A year ago, Anabel Medina Garrigues was on board as the Latvian took Paris, but she didn’t return in 2018.

Coaching carousel continues as Ostapenko, Taylor part

New coach for Sock

Schaap
Sock has been scuffling mightily so far in 2018. Perhaps the addition of Knowles for Wimbledon might settle things down. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Keys and Ostapenko are not the only ones who will have a new voice in their ear at the third Grand Slam of the season.

American Jack Sock, who wrapped up 2017 in such impressive fashion but who has struggled to an incredible degree in 2018, also has a new consultant, is on board.

Mark Knowles, who joined Team Raonic last year at this time, after Raonic parted ways with Richard Krajicek, is on board.

Sock took late entry into Eastbourne this week. And with wild cards already attributed to Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, he’s the top seed in the qualifying.

Sock had long worked with Troy Hahn and, recently, with former USTA head of men’s tennis Jay Berger.

Fish in Sock’s corner in Houston

But Berger has a new gig at a club in Florida, and the 25-year-old American has been scrambling a bit on that end.

Schaap
Keys had two coaches at the beginning of 2018 – and then none – as the amiable Taylor comes on board. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Surprisingly, it’s not an unusual time of the season for coaching changes to happen.

A year ago at this time, there were also a lot of new faces.

Meanwhile, Canadian Genie Bouchard, whose own coaching situation has been rather rambunctious the last few years, should have veteran sage Robert Lansdorp with her as she plays her first-ever Wimbledon qualifying next week.

Lansdorp, 80, has been with Bouchard in Europe through practice at the Mouratoglou Academy, through to her attempt to qualify at the WTA event in Birmingham last weekend.

WTA Rankings Report – June 11, 2018

The news in June is not pretty in Canadian tennis as a three-year Stanford University player named Carol Zhao becomes the new No. 1, and former world No. 5 Genie Bouchard is down to No. 4 in her own country.

Meanwhile, Bouchard’s occasional doubles partner Sloane Stephens, after her run to the French Open singles final, jumps from No. 10 to a career-best No. 4.

She also takes over the top spot among Americans.

It has been … years since neither Serena nor Venus Williams has held the top spot for the U.S. So a changing of the guard on that end as Madison Keys also hits the top 10.

There are plenty of movers not highlighted here. Go to the WTA Tour website for all the updated rankings.

ON THE UPSWING

rankingsCaroline Garcia (FRA): No. 7 ————-> No. 6 (One spot jump gives the No. 1 Frenchwoman a new career-ranking)

Madison Keys (USA): No. 13 ————-> No. 10

Naomi Osaka (JPN): No. 20 ————-> No. 18 (A career high for the 20-year-old who went out to Madison Keys in the third round in Paris).

Maria Sharapova (RUS): No. 30 ————-> No. 23 (Beyond the extreme tightness as she went out to Muguruza, a good French Open for the Russian).

Mihaela Buzarnescu (ROU): No. 33 ————-> No. 30  (The 30-year-old is ranked No. 30, a career high. She’s also at a career high of No. 41 in doubles this week. It is a dream season for the Romanian)

Maria Sakkari (GRE): No. 38 ————-> No. 33 (Career high for the Greek No. 1)

Danielle Collins (USA): No. 42 ————-> No. 39 (Into the top 40 for the relatively late-blooming American).

Katerina Siniakova (CZE): No. 54 ————-> No. 40 (And she won the women’s doubles title in Paris, to move up to a career high No. 6 there).

Kaia Kanepi (EST): No. 52 ————-> No. 43

Lucie Safarova (CZE): No. 53 ————-> No. 44

Yulia Putintseva (KAZ): No. 98 ————-> No. 56 (Much more in line with where the Kazakh should be, after a good Roland Garros).

Alison Riske (USA): No. 83 ————-> No. 63 (The Surbiton champ moves up)

Rebecca Peterson (SWE): No. 97————-> No. 76 (The 22-year-old Swede qualifies and reaches the second round in Paris – and a career high. She jumped nearly 40 spots in May).

Andrea Petkovic (GER): No. 107 ————-> No. 87 (Stopped by the eventual champ, the French Open was the tournament Petkovic was waiting for).

Tamara Zidansek (SLO): No. 123 ————-> No. 95 (The 20-year-old from Slovenia breaks into the top 100)

Caroline Dolehide (USA): No. 125 ————-> No. 106 (The 19-year-old American can certainly aspire to the US Open main draw).

Serena Williams (USA): No. 451 ————-> No. 183 (It’s a start, not that the virtual number really matters anyway)

ON THE DOWNSWING

rankingsJelena Ostapenko (LAT): No. 5 ————-> No. 12 (The defending French Open champion was ousted in the first round this year but, perhaps a bit surprisingly, the carnage to her ranking wasn’t disastrous.

Alizé Cornet (FRA): No. 34 ————-> No. 41

Petra Martic (CRO): No. 35 ————-> No. 48

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA): No. 31 ————-> No. 54 (From top 10 to out of the top 50, a drastic fall for the Frenchwoman).

Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS): No. 43————-> No. 57 (Back since March, her comeback hasn’t taken off yet).

Catherine Bellis (USA): No. 56 ————-> No. 66 (It keeps looking like she’s coming back, but she keeps withdrawing from tournaments).

Samantha Stosur (AUS): No. 90 ————-> No. 103 (The 34-year-old drops out of the top 100 for the first time since April, 2004).

Veronica Cepede Royg (PAR): No. 89 ————-> No. 120 (The Paraguayan had a nice run inside the top 100, but now will have to work to get back there).

Shelby Rogers (USA): No. 118 ————-> No. 141

Francoise Abanda (CAN): No. 124 ————-> No. 145

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN): No. 164 ————-> No. 194 (The last time Bouchard’s ranking was this low was in Aug. 2012. But back then, she’d raised it 120 spots within a month, as she was rising quickly).

 

Genie Bouchard’s struggles continue at French Open

PARIS – Sometime in the future, if and when Genie Bouchard turns her career around, she may look back at this French Open as the moment she had nowhere to go but up.

The 24-year-old Canadian exited Roland Garros in the first round of qualifying Wednesday, down 0-6, 1-2 to Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia when she pulled the ripcord.

Bouchard had suffered an abdominal strain two weeks ago, during warmup for her first match at the $100,000 ITF-level tournament in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France.

She pulled out of that event, and hadn’t played since.

Bouchard had a patch over the abdominal, visible when her long-sleeved top flared up as she played. But she didn’t appear to be in visible pain. She didn’t grimace, or pull up – which doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, or that it wasn’t a legitimate injury that just didn’t have enough time to heal up.

Bouchard was hitting the ball fine, moving pretty well it seemed. And if there was a slight decrease in velocity on her serve, it wasn’t significant.

But at this point, it’s really no longer about the groundstrokes.

Bouchard spent some time training at the Mouratoglou Academy as she waited for the French Open to start. And she seemed in good spirits; there was no visible patch, and there were videos posted of her hitting.

But practice isn’t playing. The tension that has led to the recurring abdominal injury flaring up on Bouchard in the past will escalate in a match situation.

There was no drama Wednesday. No racquet throwing, no despair. There was only … resignation.

Small entourage

There was no coach in Bouchard’s player’s box for this match. No hitting partner, as Robbye Poole is not in Paris (and, indeed, seems out of the picture).

Bouchard’s mother Julie also wasn’t on hand, or any other family members.

Her only supporters were physical trainer Scott Byrnes and Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau.

It’s a far cry from those heady days when she had a full team working with her. And the lack of stability – or even personnel, period – on that end is not helping her cause much these days.

No clay-court tennis in 2018

Bouchard last set foot on the red clay nearly a year ago, when she lost to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, 6-3, 6-0, in the second round of the main draw.

Bouchard’s strained abdominal was patched up for her match on Thursday. But after a set and a bit, and a visit from the trainer, she called it a day. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

She had health issues that day, as well. Bouchard had sprained her ankle pretty badly the previous week, in practice for the warmup event in Nürnberg. And while she got through her first match against Risa Ozaki in three sets, that was all she had.

This year, she entered four smaller tournaments on the dirt that she didn’t end up playing.

The first was in Bogotá, Colombia in April. But Bouchard chose to remain in California working with groundstroke guru Robert Lansdorp.

After her impressive wins in Fed Cup in the indoor hard court in Montreal, Bouchard was to play another small clay-court event in Rabat, Morocco.

She withdrew from that one as well, and went back to California – and Lansdorp – before making the trip to the south of France for the ITF.

She didn’t play there. And then she withdrew from a similar event in Trnava, Slovakia the following week.

So there was no reason to expect a lot more, other than she had been impressive during the Fed Cup week. But that was a month ago, and Bouchard hadn’t played a tournament match since then.

Ranking a’tumbling

The drop to this week’s No. 167 was jarring enough for the former world No. 5.

But when the ranking points from last year’s French Open drop off in a little over two weeks, it’s going to be worse.

She’ll drop 70 points, about 20 per cent of her current total of 351 ranking points. And while it’s hard to say exactly where she’ll end up, she’ll be right on the borderline in terms of dropping out of the … top 200.

That’s a shocking number – no doubt more shocking to Bouchard herself than anyone else.

But the numbers don’t lie.

struggles

Bouchard has played just seven tournaments this season. This was her first appearance on court in a match since she lost in the first round of Charleston to Sara Errani the first week of April.

She has a total of three main-draw wins, and the last came more than 3 1/2 months ago.

Bouchard defeated No. 85 Océane Dodin of France in the first round of the Australian Open.

In Taipei the week after the end of the first Grand Slam of the season, she posted wins over No. 116 Lin Zhu of China (who retired early in the third set) and No. 89 Ana Bogdan of Romania.

That’s it.

Officially, she’s 4-7 on the season, including a first-round win over American Allie Kiick in the first round of qualifying in Miami.

Grass-court season next month

struggles

This is the first time Bouchard won’t be in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament in five years, since the 2013 French Open.

The only other time she had even played qualifying at a Grand Slam was the first time she played a Grand Slam, at the 2013 Australian Open. She lost in the second round to Daria Gavrilova there.

Even with her recent early exits, it still likely is going to feel like an eternity until she can get back onto the match court again.

And even then, where she will play next is somewhat unclear.

She’s entered in the lower-level $125K WTA event on clay in Bol, Croatia the second week of the French Open. But she’s still nine spots out of the main draw.

Bouchard is then signed on for the qualifying at ‘s-Hertogenbosch the week of June 11 and Birmingham the week of June 18. But she has virtually no chance of making the Birmingham qualifying cut, with an entry ranking of No. 167.

There is a $100,000 ITF in Ilkley, Great Britain that same week. Bouchard has not yet entered that one, but the deadline isn’t for another week.

There also is a $100,000 grass-court tournament in Surbiton, the second week of the French Open. But Bouchard didn’t enter that either although she could request a wild card, the way she did at Cagnes-sur-Mer. That, of course, is assuming she wants to get off the clay (in Croatia) and onto the grass.