It was never going to be an easy second day at the 133rd Championships, but Canadian fans could have reasonably hoped for at least one and maybe two winners, as Genie Bouchard, Brayden Schnur and Denis Shapovalov played their opening-round matches at Wimbledon.
Instead, it turned out all ‘pear-shaped,’ as the English would put it, with the three being eliminated in their first outings.
Bouchard came the closest to winning. She was just two points away before losing 6-3, 5-7, 8-6 to no. 61-ranked Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia. Schnur struggled against Marcos Baghdatis in the wily Cypriot’s last go-round at Wimbledon, but just couldn’t win the points that mattered, losing his bid for a first Grand Slam victory by a score of 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Shapovalov continued his streak of erratic play that is mostly inexplicable as he was ousted 7-6(0), 6-4, 6-3 by no. 77 Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.
Bouchard showed admirable grit in rebounding from 0-3 deficits in both the second and third sets – winning the second and then getting herself into a winning position leading 6-5, 15-30 on Zidansek’s serve in the 12th game of the final set. She was dominating rallies and seemed to have the 21-year-old Slovene on the defensive. But an ill-fated drop shot attempt that wound up in the net and then a Hawk-Eye call two points later that showed a Zidansek ground stroke in by a miniscule margin moved the score to six-all. As improbable as it seemed at the time with her reinvigorated play, Bouchard dropped 11 of the last 12 points to give Zidansek her first main draw win at Wimbledon.
“I have a little bit of a lower confidence and that just comes from a lack of match play,” Bouchard said post-match. “I’ve played two matches in six months (actually in three-and-a-half months). Having those little lapses of focus at the beginning of the second and third sets is tough. I was able to dig myself out of a hole in the second set and actually in the third too. It was super close but shouldn’t have even been that close. But I’ll learn a lot from this.”
A sign of what may be a renewed spirit in the 25-year-old – now five years removed from her Wimbledon runner-up showing in 2014 – was her feelings after losing seven games in a row to trail by a set and 3-0 in the second. “I remember actually telling myself, ‘I still believe,’” she said. “I was really trying to not think about the score and just trying to play my game – play the right way. Because, ultimately, I know that will serve me the best going forward thinking about long-term tunnel vision.”
Bouchard was suffering from a bit of a cold on Tuesday, but it was nothing as serious her bout of bronchitis in March during the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. And while not using it as an excuse, she did say it might affect her in terms of cardio.
Having to defend ranking points from qualifying and winning a round one year ago, Bouchard’s no. 79 ranking will now drop to around no. 94.
The good thing is that the next WTA rankings, which come out on July 15, the day after Wimbledon ends, are used for direct entry into the US Open. So Bouchard, at roughly no. 94, is guaranteed a spot in the main draw for the year’s final Grand Slam event, which begins August 26th.
Her immediate plans are to play the $250,000 WTA International Series tournament in Lausanne, Switzerland, on red clay the week of July 15th. A year ago in the same week, she reached the semi-finals in Gstaad, Switzerland, before losing to top seed Alizé Cornet 6-7(5), 0-1 ret. when she had to stop due to an adductor injury.
She will then return to the North American hard courts for tournaments in Washington and Toronto – Rogers Cup.
While Bouchard and Shapovalov both played on Court 14 (see at top) – at the end of a row of four courts and bordered on one side by a wide walkway – Schnur was out on Court 8, on what used to be called the ‘field courts.’ There were especially passionate Baghdatis fans overflowing the court, but that didn’t distract from the 23-year-old Canadian’s first experience at the All England Club.
What bothered him more was an inability to exert pressure on the 34-year-old Cypriot’s serve – he converted only one of seven break points – none until the final set. Baghdatis was five for 16.
“Marcos, I thought he played a really good match,” said Schnur, who reached the final of the ATP 250 New York Open in February. “He served really well in the big moments – came up with some really good passes. The only thing I would say that I really regret is not hanging a bit tougher in that third set. If I win that third set, I think I win the match. He wasn’t looking good physically. I was really close to turning that match around – it was probably a matter of me holding at four-all (in the third set) instead of getting broken.”
Currently ranked no. 112, Schnur will now go to Winnipeg to play the $75,000 National Bank Challenger next week in a last effort (six weeks ahead of the entry deadline for the US Open) to try to get directly in to the final Grand Slam of the season.
When asked how well he thinks he’d have to do in Winnipeg to help his chance of making it into the US Open, Schnur replied, “I’m not even going to look at that. I still haven’t won a Challenger – that’s my goal. I’m not going to look at the (ATP) points. You know, I did that the last two months, trying to crack the Top 100 – counting points and stuff. That’s the wrong way to do it and it showed in my tennis. After New York, I was so outcome-based instead of process oriented. That’s like everyone – players that get close to cracking the Top 100 are so close to a huge goal. You see it – at lot of players get close and they huddle around 100. I feel that this grass season, I’ve come a long way to getting back my level.”
Shapovalov’s run of disappointing results continued Tuesday as he was much too error-prone in the two-hour and eight-minute match against Berankis, a 29-year-old who had lost his previous four matches at Wimbledon and only has a 2-6 overall record at the All England Club.
The first set tiebreak was particularly brutal as Shapovalov gave away way too many points.
He was visibly ill at ease when he showed up for his post-match media conference with eight reporters in a board-room type set-up.
“I definitely didn’t play well today,” he said. “It’s pretty tough to talk about the match honestly because I just think my level wasn’t there today. I’ve been playing pretty solid the last two weeks. Especially in practice – and just wasn’t able to show it today. I had a lot of chances – just couldn’t convert and that’s it pretty much. I don’t think he played unbelievable. The level was not good today.”
Shapovalov had break points on the Berankis serve in each set and wound up 0 for 5 while the Lithuanian was more opportunistic at 2 for 5.
Shapovalov relaxed and became more candid as the media conference went along. He seems mystified that his level of play is there in practice and he knows he should be better in matches, but it just has not happened. He’s happy in his life off the court, but is beginning to feel that his troubles on-court are essentially in his head.
Since going 4-1 to reach the semi-finals of the Miami Open in March, Shapovalov is an uncharacteristic 2-9.
He said he’s prepared to talk to someone qualified about whatever the impediment is to him playing his best level. “Maybe a psychologist, maybe someone that’s been there in the past and felt these same things – just someone that I can talk to – open up,” he said. “I think it could definitely help. It’s normal to say that it’s happening – there’s something going on, so it’s definitely something I’m thinking about. But like I said, everyone (on his team) is doing their job. I’m putting in the hours on the court. I’m being professional. The practices are going well – we were in a good environment, a good vibe before the tournament. I’ve been pretty relaxed – so it’s not coming from the prep, it’s coming from match play, from that moment. So I definitely want to find someone to talk to and open up.”
Above is a picture of the Shapovalov camp on Tuesday – including, left to right in the back row, his good friend Jan Alafriz, coach Adriano Fuorivia, trainer Stefano De Pirro – and on the far right is musician Red Foo.
20-years-old since April 15th, Shapovalov summed up his personal evolution saying, “I’m going through different phases. I went through being a good junior and playing Futures, trying to make that come-up. Then all of sudden I’m everywhere, I have a huge rise. So then I have to back that up. Now I’m in a place where I’m like, ‘I’ve been good but now I have to take the next step’ and I’ve been struggling a little bit. So honestly it’s just cool for me to battle against these things – just go through my own journey, my own path. I feel like my game is there – and for me that’s the most important part. That’s what I keep going back to. If I’m playing well and I’m feeling good – I think I’m going to figure it out. If I go on the court and I’m like ‘I can’t hit a backhand, I can’t hit a forehand’ then you have an issue. But this, I think that once I solve it, I’m going to get going. (Laughs) I’m trying to stay positive.”
In the cards now is a trip home. “I think for me it’s just to go back see my family, see my friends, see my dogs – in that environment around the people closest to me,” he said. “That’s where I can kind of like just drop the tennis part of it and just go back to being me a teenage kid. That’s what I want – just want to spend time with my friends, go out go to Joey’s, grab a couple of sliders, go to Dairy Queen – stuff like that.”
He’s not interested in playing the Newport, Rhode Island, ATP 250 event on grass in two weeks – saying he will likely return for the ATP 500 in Washington the week before the Rogers Cup in Montreal, which starts on August 5th.
On Wednesday Milos Raonic and Félix Auger-Aliassime will play back-to-back second-round matches on Court 3 – a stadium which seats 1,980. Raonic, seeded 15, takes on no. 76-ranked Robin Haase of the Netherlands while it’s Auger-Aliassime, the 19th seed, against qualifier Coretin Moutet of France, no. 84. The Raonic – Haase match is second on-court after a women’s match that begins at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. ET in Canada).
Backwards or forwards – there’s no way you don’t know there’s a fire engine behind you when you’re out driving on the streets of London.
(Photo by Mauricio Paiz)