Genie Bouchard and Denis Shapovalov reached the second round on Wimbledon on Tuesday with solid wins.
Bouchard had a flying start and then had to battle to beat British wild card Gabrielle Taylor 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 while Shapovalov’s persistence paid off in a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over an in-form Jeremy Chardy of France.
Vasek Pospisil wasn’t as fortunate, losing his opening round 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.
Shapovalov had said pre-match that he preferred being the underdog and in many ways the match played out that way as Chardy – 12-2 on grass this season – appeared tight on a few key points. He double-faulted to lose the third set and then hit a regulation forehand into the net on match point to end the two and a half-hour contest.
“I knew it was going to be a very difficult match coming into it,” Shapovalov said. “He’s played exceptional tennis on grass this season. I thought during the match I had a lot of chances that actually I didn’t convert but I stayed calm and waited for the right moments.
“Surely enough I got them. A big set was the third set where he kind of gave me the break in the set at the end. But I was putting a lot of pressure on all of his service games. I played him really well. I’m very happy with my performance.”
Shapovalov was 3/12 on break points during the match but crucially 1/1 in the final set while Chardy was 1/8 for the match 0/5 in the last set.
It was a clean, efficient performance by Shapovalov who had 49 winners (including 21 aces) to go with just 23 unforced errors.
The Shapovalov – Chardy encounter, listed as “To be arranged – not before 5 p.m.,” wound up starting on Court 16 with its 324 seats – the fifth smallest of the site’s 14 courts – at 6 p.m.
“I think they were trying to put me on a show court,” Shapovalov said about the scheduling plan. “They saw how the matches were going and they wouldn’t be able to finish my match today if they waited and put me on one of the top courts. So they decided to put me on – it was either 14 or 16 – whichever finished first.
“I understand the decision – it’s better to finish the match. Obviously it would be unbelievable to play on a show court, but they tried. It’s not like they just put me there because they want to. The matches were going pretty long. I was ready to play on any court.”
Shapovalov will next play No. 47-ranked Benoit Paire. Following his 7-5, 7-6(1), 6-4 victory over No. 155-ranked lucky loser Jason Jung of Taipei on Tuesday, the 29-year-old Frenchman regaled a small group of French reporters with tales of his left knee.
On Saturday, just walking home in from a park, he felt a sharp pain and his knee completely seized up. He was unable to walk had great difficulty sleeping that night because it pained him whenever he moved. He wound up spending two days in bed and said he would not have played Andy Murray, his originally scheduled first-round opponent, if the two-time Wimbledon champion had not withdrawn. He didn’t want to go out unsure onto Centre Court against a great home country favourite like Murray.
In the meantime, he had an MRI, spoke with physios and the French Tennis Federeration doctor, Bernard Montalvan, and was told that he had a tear in his meniscus. The knee eventually loosened up and it was explained to him that it was probably a previous tear that had simply moved around and that it might never bother him again. He was given the example of former French player Thierry Champion who experienced the same situation and then had no further problems.
Paire said he couldn’t walk for two days and didn’t practice for three days.
But once he saw he was playing Jung he decided to give it a try. He was quite worried at first but said he had no trouble during the match and very little swelling – indicating it might well just have been a piece of cartilage that had gone back into place.
Always known as a bit of a hothead with a short fuse, Paire, 29, said he now regrets his former behaviour and has a calmer, more mature attitude and is enjoying playing tennis. He also said he’s playing very well at the moment.
Two weeks ago in Halle he had two match points against Roger Federer before losing 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(7). He said Federer, a player who has been his idol and someone he looks up to, told him during the handshake at the net that he deserved to win. “It took a while to get over that one,” Paire mused, “because it’s not every day you have the chance to beat Roger Federer on grass in Halle.”
The 6-foot-5 Frenchman was quite expansive about facing Shapovalov, saying, “it’ll be a complicated match because he’s a really good player. I played him in Madrid (in May) and I played one of my best matches of the season and he played an exceptional match. We both played well in very fast conditions on Court No. 1 in Madrid. I just (post match) ran into him and he’s a good guy – a guy who plays good tennis and who’s going to do big things. I’m anxious to get out there with him. He’s doing a great job with his coach (Martin Laurendeau) and I like them a lot. It will be interesting, but I’m ready to go as long as my knee is okay. For the moment everything is positive. I’m in the second round and I had a draw with Murray, Shapovalov and then del Potro after that if he made it. I hope it’ll be a fun match with Shapovalov but I’ve got nothing to lose.”
Shapovalov confirmed that he and Paire get along well. “Me and Benoit know each other pretty well – we’ve practiced a ton,” he said. “We have played before. It’s going to be a tough match. He has great hands, a big serve. It’s not going to be easy but I think if I continue my level, if I continue to play like I did, I’ll definitely have a shot to win the match.”
Bouchard took charge early against the 20-year-old, No. 180-ranked Taylor, wrapping up the first set to love in 20 minutes.
In the second set Taylor finally won a game to make it 1-1 and gradually got herself into the match. She broke serve to 4-3 and went on to win the set.
Bouchard then took a bathroom break and when she came back she held serve and broke serve in a long, pivotal second game that went to deuce five times. Back in control, she wrapped up the match in an hour and 37 minutes.
“I think I played almost a perfect set of tennis in the first set and then it got tricky,” she said. “I think she (Taylor) started going for it more and I think I let her dictate play too much.”
Bouchard began working with 79-year-old Robert Lansdorp, a Dutchman who has long resided in southern, about three months ago.
Lansdorp and Bouchard’s physio Scott Brynes of Australia (above) are the only two members of the Bouchard support team with her at the All England Club. “We have worked on my game and he believes in me,” she said regarding her hard disciplinarian coach. “I love having him around.”
As to specifics of what they have been doing, Bouchard, who is now up to No. 147 (from No. 188) in the WTA ‘live rankings,’ said, “I don’t think my shots needed significant adjustment, but we have definitely worked on every shot in tennis, improving little things here and there.”
Next for Bouchard will be No. 17-ranked and No. 17 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia. Like Bouchard a year later in 2012 at age 18, Barty won the Wimbledon junior title in 2011 at 15.
On Tuesday, she had her first ever match win at Wimbledon defeating No. 93-ranked Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 7-5, 6-3. But Barty took an almost two-year break from tennis after the 2014 US Open and is only playing for the third time at Wimbledon.
Bouchard, who is in her sixth main draw at All England Club, has won 10 matches and now has won four in a row (including in the Wimbledon qualifying) for the first time since the WTA event in Kuala Lumpur in the fall of 2016.
Barty leads their head-to-head, having won their only previous meeting 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the opening round of the 2017 Miami Open.
“I think she’s playing great,” Bouchard said about being matched against the 5-foot-5, power-packed Aussie. “I think she loves grass. I really want to raise my level and try and play my best tennis against her and see what happens.”
Vasek Pospisil made a hard rush to get his ranking up by playing three Asian Challenger events in May before the French Open – Anning, China (2R), Gimcheon, South Korea (r/u) and Busan, South Korea (r/u). That helped get his ranking up to enable him to be directly into Wimbledon main draw. But he probably paid a price.
He lost in the first round of Roland Garros to Marton Fucsovics of Hungary and then hurt his shoulder in a doubles match and needed 10 days for it to heal. He then was beaten in his grass-court matches in s’Hertogenbosch and the Halle qualifying before deciding to skip his planned trip to Antalya, Turkey for an ATP 250 grass-court event last week.
“I got a little bit burned out the first two grass-court tournaments – not this one I was fine in terms of mentally,” he said Tuesday after the loss to the No. 77-ranked Kukushkin. “I’d done a lot of weeks in a row and a lot of traveling and then it kind of got to me a bit in s’Hertogenbosch and Halle so I took the week kind of easy training in Belgrade and pulled out of Antalya to be fresh for this one which was the right decision. I felt ready for this event unlike the previous two I’ve played.
“All the travelling and a lot of weeks in a row kind of got to me. It’s important to have little breaks between your events and kind of touch up on your game and get sharp in tennis and psychologically I kind of dipped and reassessed with the team and decided to take Antalya off.”
Pospisil gave credit to the 30-year-old Kukushkin for his play in the Court 4 match. “I bumped into a tough opponent and it wasn’t my day today,” he summed up.
As for his future plans, Pospisil is still in the doubles with American Ryan Harrison and is entered in the ATP 250 grass-court event in Newport, Rhode Island in two weeks. But he sounded like he might skip that tournament and concentrate on being ready for the fast-approaching North American hard-court season
Yesterday we featured a caricature of Roger Federer from Hemingways pub in Wimbledon Village. After the men’s GOAT, today it’s the turn of a player many believe is the women’s GOAT – and we don’t have to mention her name.