On Tuesday Genie Bouchard won her first main-draw match at the US Open since her fateful fall in the locker room following a third-round victory in 2015. She defeated exchange (with the French Tennis Federation) wild card Harmony Tan 6-3, 6-1 in 67 minutes.
The No. 396-ranked, 20-year-old from France was able to stay in some of the rallies but the more experienced and powerful Bouchard was in charge from the get-go – taking a 3-0 lead to quickly establish her superiority and never looking back.
It certainly wasn’t the most impressive win of her career but it was significant because it was at the US Open. Bouchard tumbled in the locker room and sustained a concussion that forced her to withdraw from her round-of-16 after a big win over Dominika Cibulkova in the 2015 third round. She was slated to face Roberta Vinci of Italy who went on the upset Serena Williams in the semi-finals before losing to compatriot Flavia Pennetta in the final.
“It’s been weird every year being here since the accident (2015),” Bouchard told Tennis Channel last week during her successful run through the qualifying. “This year is actually the first year I’ve won a match (though only in the qualifying at that stage) since the accident. And so I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Now that’s it’s all behind me I’m so much more relaxed about this thing that really was a big deal off the court for me. But it’s all in the rear-view mirror now and I’m really not thinking about it.”
That certainly seemed the case in 1,704 capacity Court 12 in the early evening on Tuesday. She was clearly the crowd favourite against the Frenchwoman.
Asked about her performance compared to her three qualifying wins when she lost a total of a mere seven games, she said, “I think I didn’t play as well as some of the matches last week.”
Her coach Robert Lansdorp, the eighty-year-old Californian who has worked with Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport, Pete Sampras and Maria Sharapova, is not at the US Open. The only explanation Bouchard offered was, “he just doesn’t travel that much.”
Some New York reporters asked her more probing questions, such as whether she expected to receive a wild card in the main draw and she answered, “no,” adding that she had always intended to play the qualifying.
Also, about returning to New York and the US Open, Bouchard admitted, “I’ve felt really bad coming here every year since the accident in 2015. I’m happy that’s all behind me – this whole lawsuit (now settled with the United States Tennis Association).”
In the second round, she will face Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.
The 19-year-old ranks No. 103 but reached as high as No. 50 last March. Like Bouchard in at Nuremberg, Germany, in 2014, Vondrousova has a WTA title. She won the Biel, Switzerland, tournament in 2017.
Voudrousova is 5-foot-6 and a lefty who many Czech tennis insiders view as a promising up-and-comer. She currently doesn’t have a permanent travelling coach but works with former player Jiri Hrebec when she’s at home in Prague. Vondrousova is playing in her seventh Grand Slam event and has a record of 3-6. Bouchard, 24, is in her 21st and is 40-20. She has reached at least the semi-final of each one of the four except the US Open. At Flushing Meadows she has never been past the fourth round.
About Vondrousova, Bouchard said, “I know she’s a lefty and she’s really good. I don’t know too too much so I’ll try and get some info.”
The winner of the Bouchard – Vondrousova match could play No. 13 seed Kiki Bertens the third round. The 26-year-old Dutchwoman won the WTA Premier 5 tournament in Cincinnati two weeks ago – defeating world No. 1 Simona Halep in the final.
Peter Polansky played his fourth consecutive first round at a Grand Slam event in 2018 on Tuesday and for the fourth time he came out on the losing end – this time it was No. 4 seed Sascha Zverev who beat him 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in the new Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“It was tough, his level is quite high,” Polansky understated with a complicit laugh about the awesome 21-year-old German. “It was a little higher than I expected – he’s just a very good player. It’s tough because he’s playing top players week-in and week-out – top 10 guys, top-20 guys. I’m playing a guy like him once every few months. It’s hard to adjust your level just off of one match.”
Thus ends Polansky’s record Grand Slam season – one where he was a lucky loser at all for Grand Slam events.
“It’s been a fun experience,” he said. “I don’t take it super seriously.”
There has been some aggro on twitter with people accusing him of losing the last round of qualifying on purpose to keep his lucky loser ‘Grand Slam’ hopes alive. “It’s more on twitter and social media I find that guys automatically assume you’re going to throw matches,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. It’s kind of annoying sometimes. It seems like I’m getting it more and more these days.”
Still it has been an interesting ride for the 30-year-old world No. 119. “In the end it’s been a pretty fun experience,” he said about his charmed run, “because it’s about the most random achievement possible.”
Slightly less random was his good friend Frank Dancevic’s unique Grand Slam of actually qualifying for all the Grand Slams in 2011. “I think him and (American) Michael Russell (four in a row but not in a calendar year) might have done it,” Polansky said about qualifying at all the Slams. “It’s definitely harder to qualie for four in a row than to lose…” Polansky stopped and laughed as he reconsidered if maybe having a lucky-loser Grand Slam might be more difficult.
When a reporter suggested to him that what Dancevic achieved required four more match wins and no good fortune, he seems to come around to the idea that qualifying for four in a year is more of a challenge.
Milos Raonic vs. Gilles Simon: The No. 25 seeded Raonic will play his second-round match against Gilles Simon on Court 5 following an 11 a.m. women’s match. It’s the fifth match-up between the two with Raonic leading their head-to-head 4-1. He won their last meeting in four sets at the 2017 Australian Open while the 33-year-old Frenchman came out on top in their previous encounter – 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on the grass at Queen’s Club in 2015.
Their most memorable meeting was Raonic’s hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Simon on clay in the third round of the 2014 French Open.
Simon has not played since a first-round loss to No. 54-ranked Matteo Berrettini of Italy in Kitzbuhel, Austria, last month. Last week he pulled out of the Winston-Salem ATP 250 with a back injury.
French journalists joked with Simon, following his first-round 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 win over South African qualifier Lloyd Harris, that he had been spending his summer on the beach building sand castles with his children.
About the daunting task of facing Raonic, the No. 40-ranked Frenchman said, “he’s beaten me often – everyone knows the problem with playing that kind of player but I did manage to beat him the last time (actually two times ago at Queen’s) I played him. It’s never enjoyable and I won’t be the favourite against him.
“Obviously his serve and the rest of his game – it’s always tough to play big servers like that when you don’t have a big serve yourself. I finally did quite well against (Kevin) Anderson when I won the final in (ATP 250 in January in Pune) India – and the last time (sic) I won against Milos. But he’s the kind of player like Isner and Karlovic that I don’t have super stats against.”
Denis Shapovalov vs. Andreas Seppi: The second-round match-up between the No. 28-seeded Shapovalov and No. 51-ranked Seppi will be played on the same Court 5 as Raonic but not before 5 p.m.
It’s a first meeting between the 19-year-old Canadian and the 34-year-old Italian who is playing his 15th US Open – with his best results being third rounds in 2008, 2013 and 2015.
The 6-foot-3 Seppi is best known for his 6-4, 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-6(5) upset of Roger Federer at the 2015 Australian Open – his only win in 15 meetings with the great Swiss.
Seppi has a metronomic backhand but no overwhelming shot from the baseline.
“We’ve hit a couple of times,” Shapovalov said about Seppi, “never played a match. He’s definitely a super steady guy. I wouldn’t say he’s got crazy power, so he’s not going to blow me off the court. He’s really crafty, a really smart player. He’s another guy that’s got so much experience under his belt.”
Vasek Pospisil vs. Rafael Nadal: The 28-year-old from Vancouver will make his career debut on Arthur Ashe Stadium when he faces world No. 1 and defending US Open champion Nadal on Wednesday. They will play second match on Ashe in the evening following Serena Williams vs. Carina Witthoeft of Germany.
It will be their second meeting with Nadal having won their only previous encounter 7-6(3), 6-4 in the second round in Beijing in 2015 on a hard court.
When a reporter jokingly asked Pospisil if it was tough to get a hate-on for Nadal as an opponent because he seems like such a good guy, Pospisil replied, “honestly I don’t know him too well but he seems like a very nice guy. There’s maybe a bit of a language barrier in the locker room and he tends to stay with his Spanish-speaking group, which is normal. But then when you cross paths and you say “hi” he’s very friendly.”
Comparing Nadal to the other top-50 or top-40 players, Pospisil added, “he’s one of the more friendly top players for sure. He doesn’t have any fronts and he’s not acting. A lot of guys…they know what they’re doing. They’re on TV, they’re in front of cameras and they look super unbelievably nice but then in reality they’re a little bit different. But honestly he’s one of the guys that’s who he is – when you see the way he carries himself in the locker room and the way he speaks to other people…very humble, very nice guy.”
Pospisil caught a break with Wednesday’s match being played at night. He suffers in humid conditions and, with a forecast for 36 degrees and 62 per cent humidity during the day, conditions in the second night match should be much more manageable for him.
Many of the Ivy League universities have clubs in Manhattan but the Yale Club, whose membership is made up almost entirely of alumni and faculty of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, is the grandest.
The building at 50 Vanderbilt Ave. in midtown was opened in 1915 and is 22-stories high. For what it’s worth – on Wikipedia there’s a claim that the Yale Club is “the largest clubhouse in existence today.”
Feature picture: Mauricio Paiz