Bouchard “brother imposter” arrested in Miami

NEW YORK – Genie Bouchard has enough to worry about, with her on-court winless streak now at 10 consecutive tournaments.

But another issue was added to the pile Sunday.  According to an exclusive report from WSVN Miami, a 24-year-old named Solomon Shlomo Azari was arrested at the luxury hotel/apartment complex Bouchard lives in, in Miami.

Azari, who according to the story made bail, likely will be charged with organized fraud of $20,000 or less, second-degree grand theft (between $20,000 and $100,000) and fraudulent use of personal identification information.

Oh, and possession of cocaine, as some was allegedly found on him when he was arrested.

The gossip site TMZ picked this one up quickly.

Posing as Bouchard’s brother

This fellow allegedly has been having a grand ol’ time on Bouchard’s dime – at her home.

Over a period of two months, Azari allegedly ate at the restaurant and drank at the rooftop bar at the luxury hotel/apartment complex Bouchard lives in, in Miami.

According to the WSVN story, he ran up a bill of close to $42,000 US during a two-month period this spring – a period that for the most part coincided with the time the Canadian was in Europe for the French Open and Wimbledon.

Despite the abject lack of resemblance, Azari was reportedly able to charge all the libations to Bouchard’s house account by … posing as her brother.

Azari, per Google, is the co-owner of a smoke shop in Miami and also the co-founder of a Latin music festival.

According to Fox News, which obtained a copy of the arrest affidavit, Bouchard was shown a photo of Azari, said she did not recognize him, and that he was not authorized to sign on her tab.

The affidavit, according to Fox, states that the hotel/condo resort did not smell a rat until “a representative for Bouchard called to dispute $29,000 in charges on her house account on July 30.”

The hotel began an investigation. But in the meantime, another $13,000 was charged to Bouchard’s account.  

Azari was arrested on Sunday, per Fox when he – get this – brought two friends for dinner at the restaurant. We’ll give him points for chutzpah. If not much else.

*Editor’s note: This is a corrected version of the original story, to clarify that Bouchard has confirmed to police that she did not recognize the man arrested in this case, when shown the photo. Our original piece implied otherwise.*

Pre-tournament conference: Genie Bouchard

TORONTO – It was a love fest for Genie Bouchard with the Toronto media Saturday.

The 25-year-old talked about her coaching change, about playing Bianca Andreescu in the first round, and about how much she loves visiting kids in the hospital.

A lot of softballs, which Bouchard hit for doubles and triples.

The representation from the daily newspapers in Toronto was also virtually nonexistent – not only for Bouchard, but for Toronto native Bianca Andreescu as well. 

The reality is that the 25-year-old Canadian is really struggling. She definitely could have used a first-round match in Toronto that was more … bereft of baggage and focus.

But she didn’t get it. Instead, she got the highest-profile match she probably could have gotten, except perhaps a first-round encounter with Maria Sharapova.

Here’s how her pre-tournament press conference went.

Battle for the burden

It was two years ago, in this very same room, that Bouchard sat after losing in straight sets to Donna Vekic.

Bouchard said many very good, insightful things during that post-match press conference.

But the sound bite that went all over the place was when she was asked about the potential of Andreescu, who had just turned 17. Bouchard said she was fine with “someone else carrying the burden of Canada.”

Another tough Canadian outing for Bouchard

In a bubble, it sounded a lot harsher than she meant it. She just sort of spit it out, and probably as she was saying it, she realized it wasn’t going to play well.

Still, she said it. 

A year and a half later, Andreescu won Indian Wells.

Pre-tournament conference: Bianca Andreescu

The two met in January in the quarterfinals of a 125K tournament in Newport Beach, Calif. Bouchard took just two games.

And the 25-year-old Canadian has won just one match since then – at her next tournament in February in Dubai.

She comes into the Rogers Cup having lost in the first round of her last seven tournaments.

On Monday in Washington, D.C., she got just three games against American Lauren Davis.

Didn’t come up, of course. Instead, it was about Lady Gaga in her dreams, and sick kids, and e-gaming, and such.

Genie hanging with Gaga – in her dreams

Genie hanging with Gaga – in her dreams

TORONTO – It was not, as the saying goes, the most hard-hitting journalism ever practiced.

Whenever a question begins with, “You Tweeted that … “, you already know.

And it wasn’t even from the tournament social media staff.

But it was actually pretty amusing.

Canadian Genie Bouchard expanded upon the dream during which she hung with music superstar Lady Gaga.

“She called because she had this concert, and she was inviting me to this concert, and we had hung out before,” said Bouchard, who added that every single dream she has, no matter what else is going on, takes place at a tournament site.

In this case, Dubai.

 

From Latvia, to D.C. – to Toronto for Fichman

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s good to see the Canadian mighty mite back on the courts.

And next week, Toronto’s Sharon Fichman will play the Rogers Cup for the first time in four years.

The 28-year-old didn’t think she’d be back on a tennis court 12 months ago (we’ll have more on that later in the week). 

But here she is, on a tour halfway around the world inside a week.

Fichman won the first title of her comeback last weekend in Jurmala, Latvia, on clay, with Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic. It was the second of her career; the first came in 2014, when she won Auckland with American Maria Sanchez.

The 28-year-old flew all the way to Washington, D.C. on Monday, to play on a different surface, with a different partner (Naomi Broady) in significantly different weather conditions.

Still, she and Broady managed to win their first-round match on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals.

Thursday, they lost to the No. 3 seeds, Anna Kalinskaya and Miyu Kato (who also were playing their first tournament together), 6-4, 3-6, [10-4].

Fichman’s last four victories came in match tiebreaks, including the final in Latvia. So the odds were going to go against her at some point. But some fairly routine volley misses in the breaker sealed the deal.

Toronto next up, with …. ?

Fichman’s first Rogers Cup was all the way back in 2005, when she was just 14. She won one game against Rika Fujiwara in the first round of singles qualifying, 

She and Valérie Tétreault (who retired years ago and now works for Tennis Canada) lost to Stéphanie Foretz of France and Adriana Serra-Zanetti of Italy  8-6 in a pro set in the doubles qualifying.

If those names aren’t that familiar, it’s because they’re all out of the game although in the case of Fujiwara, who turns 38 next month, retirement came only a year ago.

Her last Rogers Cup was in 2015. In between, she retired, and got involved in coaching and did some television commentary.

Who will she play doubles with?

We can reveal that it will be none other than countrywoman Genie Bouchard.

You’d think they’d have played together in Fed Cup more. But it actually only happened once, back in 2013.

In Ukraine, Fichman beat Lesia Tsurenko in singles. And then she and Bouchard combined to beat Tsurenko and Elina Svitolina in the deciding doubles to clinch a World Group II playoff tie.

Kyrgios, Bouchard add star quality to Kids’ Day

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The thing about Kids’ Day events at tournaments is that the bring out the very best in the pro players who take part.

And Nick Kyrgios and Genie Bouchard were no exception Sunday morning at the Citi Open.

Kyrgios’s face completely changes when he’s around the kids.

It’s a mutual admiration society, on that level.

He knows they don’t judge him.

And the kids feel like he treats them like actual people, not mini-versions.

The event announcer kept saying they had to pack things up so they could prepare the court for the qualifying matches to come. But Kyrgios kept on going.

On the other side of the court, Bouchard looked to be enjoying herself as much as the little ones were.

Frances Tiafoe and Sofia Kenin also took part, a little earlier in the morning.

Then Kenin and Bouchard (wearing that same outfit), who are playing doubles together this week, hit the practice court.

kids
Bouchard (and Jorge Todero) and Sofia Kenin (and father/coach Alex) hit the practice court Sunday at the Citi Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Stadium practice for Bouchard with Todero

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Genie Bouchard got an evening practice session in Saturday night, with new coach Jorge Todero and a hitting partner.

She had practiced earlier, in the heat of the day, with Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.

There was a lot of discussion about Bouchard’s serve – with some animated input from Bouchard.

Bouchard last played the Citi Open two years ago. She defeated Christina McHale in the first round, before falling in three sets to Andrea Petkovic. But she and Sloane Stephens were a Cinderella team in the doubles, reaching the final.

In 2016, she lost in the first round to Camila Giorgi. 

Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2013, when the then 19-year-old lost in the first round of singles to Ekaterina Makarova, but reached the doubles final with 2012 Wimbledon junior partner (they won) Taylor Townsend.

Here’s what it looked like on court.

A Montreal meeting in D.C.

Félix Auger-Aliassime followed Bouchard onto the stadium court for a lengthy evening practice with his friend Frances Tiafoe.

Of course, the two crossed paths.

And Bouchard chronicled the moment on her Insta, sitting courtside as Auger-Aliassime began his practice.

More Bouchard shots

Bouchard faces the relentless Lauren Davis in the first round of the singles.

Here are some pics from the practice session.

Bouchard back to clay in Lausanne

Eugenie Bouchard didn’t play any clay-court tournaments leading up to the French Open, where she lost in the first round to Lesia Tsurenko.

But she is playing one after, in Lausanne immediately following Wimbledon.

The 25-year-old reached the semifinals there a year ago, when it was held in Gstaad. And so, she has 110 ranking points to defend.

Bouchard hasn’t entered either of the two clay-court events the following week, in Palermo, Italy and Jurmala, Latvia.

So it’s a clay one-off, between Wimbledon and the hard-court tournaments in the U.S. and Canada leading up to the US Open.

Coach, trainer gone as Bouchard break continues

In a move that might come as a shock to Genie Bouchard’s fans, but is not a surprise, the 25-year-old Canadian no longer has a coach – or a trainer.

The former world No. 5 and 2014 Wimbledon finalist parted ways with coach Michael Joyce Friday.

And Tennis.Life has learned that trainer Scott Byrnes also is gone.

Bouchard has not trained in 39 days now – ever since a tough loss to Nao Hibino of Japan in the first round of qualifying at the Miami Open.

She is not entered in any tournaments during the clay-court swing.

Bouchard is on the entry list for the French Open, which begins May 26.

With a ranking of No. 81, that’s an automatic entry. But there’s no way to know whether she will make that date.

Joyce’s announcement via Twitter was terse.

There has been no corresponding announcement so far from Bouchard, no public thank you for his work and recent patience of the sort that is typical courtesy in these circumstances.

Rehabbing the ab

A little more than 24 hours ago, Bouchard announced some (real) news on her Twitter account.

Her fans had been begging her for weeks for an update on why she had seemingly fallen off the face of tennis earth – although remained a regular presence on Instagram.

She was enjoying time with friends, hitting the beach, shopping, eating the finest cuisine Miami had to offer. She even went to Disney World.

But there was no tennis.

And while Bouchard finally gave a reason for her absence, she did not indicate any sort of timeline for her return.

The abdominal issue is something that has recurred during Bouchard’s career as far back as her junior days, typically exacerbated during stressful times.

It’s not an injury that generally has prevented her from practicing, though. It’s something felt primarily on the serve.

Bouchard’s strained abdominal was patched up for her first-round qualifying match against Jakupovic at last year’s French Open. It couldn’t have been fun; it was the first time since the 2013 Australian Open that Bouchard had ever had to qualify at a major. But after winning just one of the first nine games, and a visit from the trainer, she called it a day. That same abdominal issue is reportedly preventing her from playing now, nearly a year later, with this year’s French Open a month away. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Team Genie from limbo – to lost

In the meantime, both Joyce and Byrnes had essentially been in limbo, not knowing what the immediate or medium-term future held.

Even in a highly insecure business where coaches and trainers come and go – and too often play musical chairs from player to player –  this was other level.

That’s especially true right in the middle of the season.

They had jobs. And yet, they didn’t have jobs. Now, they don’t have jobs.

Byrnes had been with Bouchard through the Nick Saviano phase, the Diego Ayala phase, the Sam Sumyk (above, left) phase, the Thomas Hogstedt phase, the Harold Solomon phase, the Robert Lansdorp phase, the Martin Sinner phase and finally, the Michael Joyce phase. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Joyce had just returned from an extended trip to Europe, where he put on coaching clinics and made appearances when he made the announcement.

Along with coach Nick Saviano and hitting partner Tom Burn, Byrnes had been an integral part of the team around the Westmount, Que. native during the shining moments of her career in 2014.

By the end of that 2014 season, both Saviano and Burn were gone.

Byrnes left right around this time, during the 2015 season. He went on to work with Madison Keys and then Jelena Ostapenko.

Trainer Byrnes back with Bouchard

Byrnes, who (ironically) now is based in Montreal after marrying a Québécoise, returned to Team Bouchard in late Feb. 2018.

And with the addition of Joyce last fall, it appeared the Canadian finally had a stable, supportive team around her for the first time in a long time.

Michael Joyce on coaching trial with … Genie Bouchard

She was able to train a full off-season without being on the search for a coach. And there was a definite boost in the new arrival, as Bouchard clearly liked Joyce and appeared fully engaged to wrap up 2018, and start 2019.

The 46-year-old California native is an accomplished coach who worked with Maria Sharapova for many years. More recently, he coached Victoria Azarenka and Johanna Konta.

But now he, too, finds himself on the job hunt in the middle of the season.

A year ago: massive Fed Cup performances

The news comes a year – almost to the day – after Bouchard pulled off one of her most impressive wins in recent years.

Coming in to the Fed Cup tie against Ukraine without any sort of decent form, Bouchard won her first match against Kateryna Bondarenko. And then, on the second day, she pulled off a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) comeback win over the very capable Lesia Tsurenko. It was a match that was as draining mentally as it was physically – on both women.

Absent from Fed Cup play for three  years, playing in her hometown, it was a triumph that seemed as though it might be a springboard to a return to form.

But it wasn’t to be. Bouchard played just one match during the 2018 clay-court season. 

Down 0-6, 1-2 to Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia in the first round of the French Open qualifying (her first time in the qualifying of a Grand Slam since Jan. 2013) she retired with the same abdominal issue she referred to her “update” Tweet.

A year on, it’s unclear whether she will get on the clay at all. Or, indeed, what the future holds.

When she gets healthy again, Bouchard not only will have to start up again after a long layoff, having lost significant ground both in the rankings and to her opponents.

She’ll also return without an agent, or a coach, or a physical trainer.

The Canadian has been through a lot of tough times in the last few years. 

Arguably, these are the toughest times of all.

Canada all … out for Fed Cup

The photo above is of better days, hopeful days, as a jubilant Canadian Fed Cup squad swept the Netherlands in February.

Two months later, the bad news is … well, it’s pretty much all bad news.

The team had been counting on the young player of the hour, 18-year-old Bianca Andreescu, to lead the team in its effort to get into World Group I.

But Andreescu is pretty banged up after a career-making trip to Indian Wells and Miami. And she has a big spring clay-court season ahead as a top-25 player. So she can’t make the date.

Also out? Genie Bouchard, who hasn’t played since Miami.

Also out? Françoise Abanda, a player whose best career moments have come when representing her country.

It’s a key playoff tie that would get them into World Group I. But to face the Czechs in Prostejov, the vaunted Canadian tennis program basically had to get all hands on deck. 

Marino to lead in singles

Rebecca Marino, currently ranked No. 204, must be the leader.

The 28-year-old will have to play No. 1 singles – on red clay – in her first Fed Cup singles duty since 2011.

No Serena, but strong US squad for Fed Cup

Rookie at No. 2 singles

At No. 2? That likely will be Leylah Annie Fernandez. The 16-year-old will be making her Fed Cup debut. The alternative is Gabriela Dabrowski, a doubles star who is a talented singles player, but has rarely played in recent years.

The fourth member of the team will be Sharon Fichman.

Fichman has played in 27 Fed Cup ties in her career, most of them on the South American clay in the zonals.

But the 28-year-old hasn’t worn the colours since 2016. She had basically retired before returning in doubles last year.

The “press-release quote” from new captain Heidi el Tabakh is, as you would expect, full of positive.

“Our players have all had some good results since the start of the year. And we are hoping to capitalize on their momentum going into this matchup. We recognize that this tie represents a challenge for us as we are playing a great team who is proficient on a clay court surface. They are last year’s Fed Cup champions. And we will be prepared for some tough matches.”

Basically, it’s a disaster

The Canadians were so impressive in February, playing on indoor clay in the Netherlands.

Andreescu didn’t drop a set in her two singles matches. Abanda, whose shoulder already was bothering her and has barely played since, impressively defeated lefty Arantxa Rus. And Dabrowski and Marino won the dead-rubber doubles to sweep.

Canada
Andreescu was a rock star against the Netherlands. But she’s still recovering from the toll a successful tour of Indian Wells and Miami took on her body.

The win over the Netherlands was Marino’s first participation in a Fed Cup tie since 2011. So, in retrospect, it was good for her to at least get her feet wet in anticipation of the heavy load she’ll have to carry in Prostejov.

Since returning after a 5 1/2-year retirement at the beginning of last season, Marino has played singles on red clay just once. It was early in her comeback in 2018, at one of the lower-level Futures events she played in Antalya, Turkey.

Before that, the Vancouver native’s last red-clay experience goes back to the 2011 French Open. There, she reached the third round and lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova. So far in her career, that has been the only good result for her on that surface.

From Osaka to Prostejov, for Canada

The bigger challenge Marino faces is that she is currently in her fifth consecutive week on the ITF hard-court circuit – in Japan.

Marino getting help from the sisterhood

It is both impressive and commendable that she’s willing to fly from Osaka to the Czech Republic, with the jet lag and all the wear and tear she’s experienced over the last five weeks, and quickly switch to a less-beloved surface to represent the maple leaf.

But it’s a big challenge.

(Marino, who was a finalist last week in Kashiwa, won her first-round singles match in Osaka Tuesday. But has yet to play her first-round doubles match).

Rookie Fernandez at No. 2?

The most experienced and accomplished of the group, Dabrowski played singles last week at an ITF in Florida. But that’s been a rare occurrence in recent years given the disparity between her doubles ranking (which allows her to play the biggest WTA events), and her current singles ranking of No. 387.

With the Fed Cup format putting the doubles rubber last after the singles, the outcome is often decided before it gets to that point. And so Dabrowski’s expertise has too often not been called upon.

Fernandez, who reached the semifinals in her Grand Slam junior debut at the French Open a year ago, is very much an outsider in the Tennis Canada scheme.

She receives very little financial support, even though she reached No. 4 in the junior rankings after making the girls’ singles final at the Australian Open in January. She trains in Florida with her father, Jorge.

The young lefty does have more recent clay-court experience – although it was in Australia. Fernandez reached the quarterfinals of a pair of $25,000 ITF events. Both times, she came out of the qualifying, and was defeated by Aussie veteran Olivia Rogowska. Her WTA Tour ranking stands at a career-best No. 376.

Under(wo)manned Czechs still strong

The Czechs will not have top-10 players Petra Kvitova or Karolina Pliskova on board.

But unlike Canada, this established tennis nation has significant depth.

The players who will take part – Marketa Vondrousova, Karolina Muchova, Maria Bouzkova and Barbora Krejcikova (who just won a big ITF title on the American clay in Florida) are all ranked much higher than the Canadians. Krejcikova also is ranked No. 2 in the world in doubles, typically paired with Katerina Siniakova.

Veteran Lucie Safarova, who will officially retire at a home tournament in Prague later this month, is the fifth member of the team.

A big challenge made even bigger

To sum up, it’s a pretty dire situation for the Canadians, who would have had a better than fighting chance with their best assets – Andreescu, Bouchard and Abanda – at full strength.

Here’s the press-release blurb about the absence of Andreescu. There is no elaboration on the absences of Bouchard and Abanda.

“Bianca Andreescu was not named to the Canadian Fed Cup team for the upcoming tie against the Czech Republic due to a lingering injury that she suffered during the Miami Open. Andreescu has been recuperating and slowly preparing for her return to competition. Representing Canada has always been a priority for Andreescu, who has played in eight consecutive Fed Cup ties since her debut in 2017. Although she is unable to participate, she wishes the team the best of luck and she will be ready for the next tie.”

Canadians 1-for-3 in Monday Miami qualies (video)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Félix Auger-Aliassime was the only one of the three Canadians in action Monday in the Miami Open qualifying to make it through to the final round.

And even the 18-year-old struggled at first, before rising to the task.

Auger-Aliassime dropped the first set against Italian veteran Luca Vanni in a flurry of unforced errors. But then, he ran away with it in the third set of a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.

His next opponent – the man standing in the way of him making the Miami Open main draw for the first time – also is no pushover.

Auger-Aliassime will play 37-year-old Paolo Lorenzi, who lives in Sarasota, Fla. and trains at the IMG Academy. Auger-Aliassime spent the off-season preparing there. So he’ll have seen him, even if he might not have practiced against him.

Lorenzi is the fellow who’s basically out there on the courts half the day, every day. 

Given the qualifying is not broadcast, we shot a few highlights of the match.

Bouchard struggles against nemesis Hibino

In 2018, Eugenie Bouchard faced 24-year-old Nao Hibino three times, all on hard court.

All three times – all within two months, at the Vancouver Challenger, in Hiroshima and in Tashkent, Uzbekistan – Hibino won. Bouchard managed just one set in those three defeats.

The Canadian managed a set on Monday. But after winning the first set, turning the page on a love set and running out to a 3-1 lead, Bouchard won just one more game in a 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 loss.

Hibino has has proven to be a brutal matchup for her, a consistent player with some power who runs down everything. Hibino has nearly the same winning percentage as Bouchard through her career (57.9% versus 58.8 per cent for Bouchard) based on approximately 12 per cent fewer matches at the WTA level).

Bouchard didn’t look great in practice against Magda Linette of Poland, but that’s not unusual for her. She was coughing occasionally, but it didn’t seem – from the outside – like anything big. Certainly nothing like she experienced at Indian Wells in that valiant effort against Kirsten Flipkens in the first round.

Against Hibino, everything sort of started well, then unraveled. Again, the cumulative pressure of having the ball come back, of trying to finish points off too quickly. It was fairly similar to her other losses to Hibino – plus, at this point, the Japanese has to be in Bouchard’s head, understandably.

Bad luck and timing

The 25-year-old Canadian was going to be the next player into the Miami Open draw. But that withdrawal she needed never came – at least, not in time for the qualifying.

In fact, there were only two withdrawals from the original entry list: Maria Sharapova and Ekaterina Makarova.

It’s possible there might well be some before the main-draw matches begin. But that’s too late for Bouchard.

Most things weren’t going well Monday. After she decided to take a bathroom break following the bagel second set, Bouchard headed off in the wrong direction – only to be told the facilities were at the opposite side of the court (first day in a new site, everyone’s trying to figure things out).

During that bathroom break, coach Michael Joyce exited the court and spent most of the time talking with Bouchard’s mother, Julie Leclair.

Bouchard isn’t playing doubles in Miami. And she has entered the International-level Monterrey WTA event the week of April 1 and the same-level tournament Bogota the following week.

The Canadian Fed Cup team’s World Group I playoff tie against the Czech Republic will be held in Prostejov April 20-21. 

Another tough one for Polansky

Meanwhile, Richmond Hill, Ont.’s Peter Polansky had a tough one against No. 4 qualifying seed Mackenzie McDonald, losing 7-6 (4), 7-5 in a match that featured just three break points. 

Mackenzie had one break point in the second set, and converted it. And that was basically the match on a day Polansky played well enough, for the most part, to win it.

It was a long road back to the locker rooms inside the stadium, for sure.

Polansky lost a tough one in the first round of Miami qualifying, against No. 4 seed Mackenzie McDonald.