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.

roundup
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.

Bouchard preps for 1st career RG qualies

PARIS – From the time Canadian Genie Bouchard made her Roland Garros debut back in 2013, she was in the main draw.

This year, with her ranking down to No. 167, she is in the qualifying for the first time. And she’s not even seeded.

Bouchard will face No. 13 seed Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia in the first round on Tuesday.

They are last up on Court No. 6, which is the court that is being streamed. So if you get Tennis Channel Plus, you might be able to watch it.

Jakupovic is a 27-year-old who is ranked No. 121 in singles, and No. 55 in doubles.

Her singles ranking is a career high. Her doubles ranking is one off a career high established last month. So she is playing the best tennis of her career, and reached the semifinals of the WTA Tour event on clay in Bogotá, Colombia last month.

Draw full of possibilities

There are no “easy wins’ for Bouchard these days. So to say that her draw is a cake walk would be to overstate the case, especially because the No. 7 qualifying seed, Mariana Duque-Mariño of Colombia, is a good clay-court player.

Bouchard and Duque-Mariño have met twice, eons ago when Bouchard was just starting out. The Canadian defeated her both times, both on clay, in the Acapulco qualifying, and also in Fed Cup.

Bouchard has played little tennis on Tour in recent months – just four matches since she reached the quarterfinals of the small WTA event in Taipei City after the Australian Open.

She won just one of those, a first-round qualifying match against American Allie Kiick in Miami during which her former coach Harold Solomon, with whom she had split just days before, was sitting in the opposing camp.

Here are some pics of Bouchard and Zhao in action.

The two other matches she did play, at Fed Cup in Montreal a month ago, loom larger in terms of her confidence.

Bouchard injured her left hand in her first match against Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine. And she was cramping up in her second match, against Lesia Tsurenko. But she managed to win both of them, a big confidence boost.

But she hasn’t played since.

The 24-year-old had entered a pair of $100,000 ITF events, in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France and Trnava, Slovakia the last two weeks. But an abdominal strain suffered in the warmup just before her first-round match in France resulted in her withdrawing from both

She has spent the last week or so training at the Mouratoglou Academy in France.

Pared-down Team Bouchard

Bouchard practiced with fellow Canadian Carol Zhao Monday at Parc Jean-Bouin, a practice facility just down the street from Roland Garros.

There was no sign of hitting partner/assistant coach Robbye Poole. Indeed, Poole wasn’t in Montreal, either.

Here’s some video of Bouchard in practice.

And, of course, there is no official coach at the moment, although Bouchard has been to California to work with Robert Lansdorp on two occasions – after Charleston (and instead of Bogotá), and after the Fed Cup (instead of playing Rabat).

Physical trainer Scott Byrnes appeared to be giving Bouchard a lot of tennis advice. Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau also was on the court.

Zhao, who will be playing her first French Open qualifying, had her right elbow wrapped both above and below. She pulled out of the Trnava tournament after the draw.

She will play former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round. The match also will be on Court 6, just before Bouchard’s tilt.

Currently ranked No. 265, Schiavone, 37, was at No. 156 at the entry deadline for the qualifying, so she made it. Even as a former champion, the French federation saw fit to award their multiple wild cards to a bunch of their players who, let’s face it, aren’t exactly top prospects.

And so, the Italian will try to get through three matches this week.

Zhao does have a little intel on Schiavone, even if it’s not on her beloved clay.

She practiced with her at Indian Wells in March, and even got her to drop some salty language.

 

 

“Abdominal pain” puts Bouchard out of Cagnes-sur-Mer

Genie Bouchard’s abdominals have been prominently displayed over the years, especially in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Ironically, they are also the most vulnerable part of her anatomy.

The old ab injury struck again Tuesday, just hours before the 24-year-old was due to play her opening-round match against Germany’s Andrea Petkovic at the $100,000 ITF event in Cagnes-sur-Mer Tuesday afternoon.

Per the Open de Cagnes tournament director, the report from the medical staff on site was that Bouchard was suffering “abdominal pain (douleur abdominal)” felt during her warmup earlier in the day, 

And so, in her first ITF-level tournament in over a year, only her second in the last five years, she’s out before she was even in.

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Bouchard’s abdominal injury flared up in Eastbourne in 2015, just few months after similar drama at Indian Wells.

A recurring theme

Even going back to her junior days, Bouchard has always been susceptible to abdominal strains.

It’s not because she doesn’t work them in the gym.

Every athlete has a weak spot, a place that’s especially vulnerable when the nerves hit. And for Bouchard, the tension goes right to the abs.

Notably, she strained the muscles back at Indian Wells in 2015, when she was in the top 10 and took the court for her fourth-round match of the tournament against Lesia Tsurenko Ukraine.

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The abdominal injury flared up again during a long, dramatic match against Lesia Tsurenko at Indian Wells in 2015 – the catalyst for a brutal stretch of season that culminated in the locker-room incident at the US Open. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

She lost that one, 6-4 in the third. And there were a lot of emotions spilling over. 

The season got away quickly from her after that with opening losses in Miami and Charleston, two losses at home in Fed Cup against Romania. Then, first-round losses in eight of her 10 tournaments before the infamous locker-room incident at the US Open.

It happened again in Eastbourne, just before Wimbledon later that year, when she retired down 6-4, 3-0 to Belinda Bencic in her second match, after defeating Alison Riske in the first round. 

In Charleston in 2016, she suffered the same injury against Lourdes Domingues Liño in the second round, and was forced to retire.

It was a fairly dramatic scene. Reunited with longtime former coach Nick Saviano just that week, Bouchard didn’t want to stop. She has rarely retired from matches in her career. But as she wanted to soldier on, Saviano was urging her to pull the ripcord.

ITF level no easy ride

The common denominator in these recurring issues is … pressure.

For all the career advice from the armchair quarterbacks about dropping down to the lower levels to gain match wins and confidence, the move is fraught with a lot of downside.

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Bouchard was forced to retire from her match against Belinda Bencic at Eastbourne in 2015 with an abdominal injury.

In this case, though, if Bouchard wanted matches, she didn’t have a lot of options.

With her ranking at No. 117, Bouchard wasn’t going to make the qualifying at either top-level WTA event the next two weeks.

Not in Madrid this week, and not in Rome next week. She remains 20 spots out of the qualifying there even with seven withdrawals from that entry list already.

Meanwhile, the level of competition at these higher ITF events is very strong. Because what’s true for Bouchard is also true for many others.

The Cagnes-sur-Mer draw is filled with players who opted to play the ITF event even if they would have made the cut for the qualifying in Madrid.

Bouchard’s opponent Tuesday was to be Petkovic, a fellow former top-10 player who has beaten her five of the six times they have met. That included a match during her brief comeback effort in Asia in the fall of 2015, when she was still suffering concussion systems. 

Bouchard’s only win against Petkovic came during her dream run at Wimbledon in 2014.

Big hurt on the ranking

Adding to the scenario Bouchard found herself in this week is the fact that the ranking points from the her quarter-final run in Madrid last year are coming off this week. 

By going deep in the Cagnes-sur-Mer tournament, she could have mitigated some of the damage. But that won’t happen now.

As it stands, Bouchard sits at No. 167 in the live rankings. And with many other players below her still in their various tournaments, there are as many as a dozen players who could theoretically leapfrog her before the new list officially comes out on Monday.

If there is a rock-bottom in this four-year struggle, this might well be it.

It will be the first time in almost exactly five years that Bouchard won’t be No. 1 in Canada. Françoise Abanda and Carol Zhao will jump ahead of her.

The positive to that is that it can only go up from here.

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An emotional Bouchard tried to carry on in Charleston in 2016, but was forced to retire with the abdominal issue that has been a recurring theme during her career. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Injuries a momentum-killer

On some levels, Bouchard has been the master of her own misfortune. But intertwined with that have been some cruel twists of fate.

It feels as though every time she seems to get some momentum going, something comes along to stop it in its tracks.

In 2015, after her year-long struggles, Bouchard was putting together an enervating run at the US Open. Then the incident in the locker room resulted in a concussion, and her withdrawal from the tournament.

And, indeed, it compromised the rest of her season and off-season in a significant way. That spilled right into the start of 2016.

A year ago, with the momentum of Madrid on her side, Bouchard went to Nürnberg the week before the French Open. It was the site of her first and, so far, only WTA Tour title.

There, she badly sprained her ankle on the practice court. It was blue and brown and everything in betwee. And as she arrived in Paris for the French Open, she was unsure if she could even compete.

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Bouchard got through her first round in Paris last year, despite an ankle turned all sorts of nasty colours. She couldn’t recover for the next one; Bouchard got only three games against Sevastova in the second round. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

But while Bouchard got through her first round against Risa Ozaki, she was visibly hampered in her next match against Anastasija Sevastova, losing 6-3, 6-0.

She then lost her first-round matches at all three grass-court events she played: Mallorca, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. All in three sets.

Encouraging moments in Montreal

This year, Bouchard decided to play Fed Cup in Montreal two weeks ago. Her hometown has been the site of some of the tougher moments in her career. But it was also a chance to turn things around.

She pulled through two singles matches, against Kateryna Bondarenko and Tsurenko, in impressive fashion.

The win over Tsurenko, notable for its length and the fact that both players were cramping by the end of it, should have been something she could build on. She also injured her hand on court during the Bondarenko match, but kept going despite feeling pain every time she hit a backhand, and prevailed.

Bouchard nipped that momentum in the bud by pulling out of the smaller clay-court event in Rabat, Morocco last week.

Instead, she opted to fly from Montreal to California to do more training under the eye of  Robert Lansdorp. And then she went all the way to Europe from there.

So there were only a few days in Cagnes-sur-Mer to adjust to the very different red clay surface, as well as the maritime conditions. The Har-Tru that she practiced on in California, while somewhat similar, is in fact very different.

And now, this injury, with another $100,000 tournament planned in Slovakia next week and then, the French Open qualifying.

Tough times. If there’s a star-crossed player on the WTA Tour right now, it’s her.

Renaissance weekend at home for Bouchard

MONTREAL – Genie Bouchard supporters, and the lady herself, have often said during the last several years that there would come a time – a match, a week – when things could click, and the long climb back up the rankings would finally begin.

There have been moments like that before. Notably, the week in Madrid a year ago when she looked like 2014-vintage Bouchard in defeating Maria Sharapova, and followed it up with a win over Angelique Kerber to reach the quarterfinals.

On that occasion, the momentum was quickly quashed after an ankle injury suffered on the practice court that affected the French Open and Wimbledon in the ensuingn weeks.

But more often, there has been one solid-looking match that offered hope. And then, the follow-up just wasn’t there.

In that context, Bouchard’s back-to-back singles victories over quality opponents in a pressure-packed situation in Montreal this weekend were genuine signs that her fans – and Bouchard herself – can build on.

If the wins over No. 78 Kateryna Bondarenko and No. 41 Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, which game Canada a 2-1 lead that they brought into the tie-clinching doubles on Sunday weren’t enough, it was the process – even more than the outcome – that were impressive.

Renaissance

Bouchard began the weekend by answering the much-anticipated “will she or won’t she” handshake question with a firm clasp of the right hand with Bondarenko. And then – when she was just a few minutes away from escaping with a plus on her public-image report card when she erased the plus with a shot at the local media.

It wasn’t that she may not have had somewhat of a point. But if you’re going to point fingers at people in a large, public gathering, you need to make sure that the specific perpetrators you have a beef with are present in the room. And for the most part, that wasn’t the case.

Moving on …

The match against Bondarenko Saturday was a tricky one, against an opponent with variety who also is prone to lapses that an opponent with Bouchard’s current lack of confidence can call into.

But she had that look her eyes get when she has risen to the occasion in recent years. It hasn’t happened all that often; the Olympics match against Sloane Stephens and the match against Sharapova wore notable examples. The eyes get wide open, and the pupils dilate – or something similar – and a look that combines desire, desperation and dedication seems to overtake them.

Bouchard flinched only a little, when she was ahead and looking at the finish line right in front of her. But she righted that before it got away and into a third set, and posted Canada’s first win of the weekend.

The issue in that match was crash into a sponsor’s display located too close to the side of the court. And Bouchard did a number on her left hand. Some painkillers didn’t help much on the spot; she said it hurt every time she hit a backhand.

Perhaps that pain took away some focus on what could go wrong in the match. And that was enough to push it over the finish line.

Sunday drama

Against Tsurenko, with the tie at 1-1 and the two other singles players having suffered tough injuries on Saturday, the pressure was on.

The two had a history of plenty of drama in their two previous meetings in Fed Cup and at Indian Wells. But this one took the prize.

On Saturday, it was 17-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu who cramped up. But there were obvious reasons for that, including the fact that she was worked far too hard in the gym the previous days, since she wasn’t expected to play. And that she had just had a big breakfast that day, expecting to be on the bench cheerleading only to be called for duty at the last minute.

On Sunday, both Bouchard and Tsurenko cramped.

Struggle to the finish

While Bouchard said in a TV interview that it was her opponent who cramped first, the Canadian was putting ice bags on her thighs after the second set. She had obvious issues with the cramping, but was still able to serve at a good clip. Tsurenko’s issues came later, and were severe enough that at one point, she was just lobbing the serves in.

Not that comparing level of cramp is an exercise that is worth one iota of attention.

It was an arduous match physically. It was a long one. And it was an important one.

And it was Bouchard who came out on top in a third-set tiebreaker, to the jubilation of the Tennis Canada team and the fans on hand (the very sportsmanlike and courteous Ukraine faction were a little less pleased).

If there was a common thread with Saturday, it was that there was a physical issue to manage. And, perhaps, she could forget trying to be perfect and just rely on her fighting spirit. Because that was all she could count on.

Whatever it was, it worked.

If Bouchard was an option to play the doubles given her efforts in singles, she didn’t play. And Andreescu, the offending calf from the previous day wrapped hermetically, managed to do enough on the doubles court with Gabriela Dabrowski to win in three sets and seal the tie.

Andreescu couldn’t run much. But whatever she could get to, she crushed.

Bouchard was on hand, a vocal cheerleader beneath her ballcap. And she led the charge around the arena with her teammates as they carried the flag.

Next steps

Bouchard’s responses to questions about what the weekend might do for her confidence, about what her plans were – about most things – were delivered in a monotone in as few words as possible.

Her next tournament begins next weekend in Rabat, Morocco. It’s an International-level tournament, the lowest level on the WTA Tour. And she said Sunday that she’s in the qualifying.

As of Monday night, she is seven out of the main draw there.

The last time Bouchard played qualifying at an International-level event was more than five years ago, in Acapulco in 2013. Her record in tournaments at that level over the last two years, in the main draw, is 5-15.

As for the Strasbourg-French Open question, the Canadian said that there had been no final decision made, which we’d have to interpret as her not yet having secured a main draw wild card for the French Open – if indeed that’s a possibility or a likelihood.

She referred to Strasbourg as “an option”. Which might be news to them. But a tournament held the week before a Grand Slam knows the drill with players they want to play their tournament – regardless of ranking.

In three weeks, the points from last year’s Madrid result fall off. And if Bouchard can’t find a way to make some of them up, she will drop below No. 150 in the world.

But with what she gained during a weekend at home – a place that has been the scene of some of the most difficult moments of her career – she’s better armed to start tacking the deficit.

Canadian Fed Cup team bumped, bruised, but tied 1-1

MONTREAL – Canada’s World Group II Fed Cup playoff tie hadn’t even begun, when the first bad news hit.

No. 2 Françoise Abanda, already slowed a little by a knee issue, was doing some final warmup exercises just a few minutes before the teams were to take the court for the opening ceremony. 

And then, she slipped and fell.

Abanda hit her head on the court. Immediately there were a half-dozen Tennis Canada personnel around her, everyone looking concerned. 

It wasn’t long before the decision was made to put in 17-year-old Bianca Andreescu as a last-minute substitute. And Abanda – her head still hurting several hours later – went back into the locker room.

That’s a tough ask for anyone, never mind an inexperienced 17-year-old. Planning to sit courtside with some figurative popcorn, Andreescu expected to work out her cheering muscles and nothing else on Saturday. 

Without a proper warmup, or eating at the right time, or all the myriad preparations that go into a match, she took on world No. 41 Lesia Tsurenko.

Andreescu played brilliantly, taking the first set. But by the middle of the second set, she began to tire. And by the beginning of the third set, you could see her shaking out her leg and trying to fight off cramps.

A few games later, she collapsed in a heap. A cramp that began in her calf moved up into the rest of her leg, and she was really in pain. 

She was carted off the court in a wheelchair, forced to retire from the match.

Two down, Bouchard up next

It was left to Genie Bouchard to salvage a tie on the day. 

And she did, with an impressive 6-2, 7-5 win over world No. 78 Kateryna Bondarenko. It was a victory that never felt as though it might get away from her, despite a couple of nervous moments when she was close to the finish line.

Here’s what it looked like.

But …

Early in the match, Bouchard whacked her left hand on a towel display installed just to the left of her bench. Running at a good clip, she tried to brake, using the left hand, and was left in some pain.

She said that every backhand she hit for the rest of the match hurt – a lot.

But she could still joke with captain Sylvain Bruneau about there being “Three down, one to go.”

Here’s what she said about it.

Canadian infirmary

The release from the ITF about Abanda’s injury said she had a “pero-orbital contusion” – medical speak for a black eye.

But she didn’t, even though the eye was swollen. 

While the medical personnel were monitoring Abanda through the day, they certainly couldn’t rule out a concussion. And that’s scary, especially if there’s even a desire on Abanda’s part to try to play Sunday in the fourth singles rubber.

As for Andreescu, she’s likely to be awfully sore where the cramps hit.

And there’s no predicting how Bouchard’s hand will feel when she wakes up on Sunday morning.

Here’s Bruneau with the medical report.

Dabrowski to the rescue?

You would expect Bouchard to give it a go in the first match of the day Sunday against Tsurenko.

After that, Canada will either be in a position to clinch, or in a position where it needs a victory to stay alive.

Gabriela Dabrowski, a fine singles player but one who has put that discipline aside for the most part to focus on her top-10 doubles career, is ready to go in singles if needed.

If it gets to a fifth and deciding rubber, Bruneau may have no other options left but to put Bouchard and Dabrowski on for the doubles.

It may be a sleepless night for a few people on the Canadian side.