Genie Bouchard has lost to qualifiers ranked No. 85 (Lesia Tsurenko) and No. 113 (Tatjana Maria) at her last two tournaments – Indian Wells and Miami.
In the heartless world of tennis know-it-alls on the Internet, some souls seem to revel in her fall from grace and believe a temporary speed bump is actually the beginning of a slippery slope.
There’s no question Bouchard’s 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4 loss to the 25-year-old Tsurenko from Ukraine and her 6-0, 7-6(4) defeat by 27-year-old Maria of Germany, formerly Tatjana Malek and now mother of 15-month-old Charlotte, were completely unexpected and frustrating for her, as the pictures at the top here show.
But they must be considered in light of her fitness and preparation for those two WTA Mandatory events.
Bouchard had an arm problem leading into Indian Wells and there was black kinesio tape on her right forearm during practice leading into the event. Then, during her loss to Tsurenko, she strained an abdominal muscle and required treatment off the court.
In the picture above, taken during her loss to Maria last Saturday, it’s possible to see some sort of wrap or tape still on her left lower abdomen area.
It’s often forgotten that it’s not only the injury but equally the amount of missed reps that can contribute to a player’s decline in form.
Before Wimbledon last year, Bouchard had problems with her knees but was able to overcome them and make it all the way to the final.
During the summer, there were also leg issues that lasted through from her shocker loss at Rogers Cup to qualifier Shelby Rogers to the conclusion of the US Open.
Then, at the end of the year, she probably should not have played the WTA Finals in Singapore where she lost three matches without winning a set. Again there was some sort of problem and she memorably exclaimed to then-coach Nick Saviano during an on-court visit, “why am I playing this tournament if I’m not prepared?”
So far in 2015, there was a win over Serena Williams in Hopman Cup in early January when the world No. 1 was still jet-lagged from a late arrival in Perth. That win probably deserves about as much credence as Bouchard’s losses to Tsurenko and Maria. Context is key in evaluating results.
Still, it remains a bit of a mystery how she could play so well – typical take-no-prisoners, aggressive tennis in blowing away Lucie Hradecka (6-2, 6-2) and Coco Vandeweghe (6-3, 6-2) – in her first two matches in Indian Wells and then struggle so badly against Tsurenko and Maria.
It’s unfortunate Bouchard didn’t beat Maria because, in the fourth round, she might have faced the player who succeeded her as Wimbledon Junior Girls champion in 2013 – Belinda Bencic of Switzerland. In the picture here, Bencic, 18, can be seen at the side of the court watching Bouchard last Saturday. [Bencic lost 6-4, 7-6(5) to Sloane Stephens on Monday.]
A lot of factors may be contributing to Bouchard’s troubles at the moment – the injuries, the coaching change to Sam Sumyk, the pressure of backing up a year when she went from No. 32 to No. 7 and reached the semifinals or better at three of the four Grand Slams.
With her loss on Saturday, Bouchard now has time off to prepare for next week’s Family Circle Cup on clay in Charleston, S.C. She has accepted a wild card and will be the top seed in a field that is slated to include Ekaterina Makarova, defending champion Andrea Petkovic and three of the women’s generation next – Stephens, 22, Madison Keys, 20, and Bencic, 18. It will be interesting to see if Bouchard can repeat or do better than her semifinal (a tough loss to Petkovic) a year ago.
The following April 18-19 weekend, it remains uncertain whether she will decide to play the Fed Cup World Group Play-off when Canada takes on Romania in Montreal.
She is officially entered in the Stuttgart indoor event on red clay beginning the week following Fed Cup.
There have been clear signs this year that Bouchard is capable of playing the calibre of tennis that she showed at important moments in 2014. The two prime examples were how she won four rounds at the 2015 Australian Open to reach the quarter-finals before losing to Maria Sharapova, and those first two matches in Indian Wells.
Logic suggests that Bouchard is now through that break-out phase when an emerging player has nothing to lose and is able to play freely without the weight of expectation.
She turned 21 last month and has now played each of the Grand Slam tournaments twice. Her rise over the past three years – No. 144 to No. 32 to No. 7 (with a high of No. 5 in Oct. 2014) – has been remarkable for such a young player.
By comparison, Stephens, a year older and an Australian Open semifinalist a year earlier in 2013, has not been able to break into the Top 10 (a high ranking of No. 11 in 2013) and is currently No. 45. But she will be higher after reaching the Miami Open quarter-finals (or better).
Most people probably forget that a year ago in Miami – like this year with Maria (above) – Bouchard, after a bye, also lost her opening match 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 to No. 42-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
While this is obviously a difficult phase for her, it’s premature to suggest she won’t be able to bounce back and have a strong impact in the upcoming clay-court events leading into the start of the French Open on May 24th.
Bouchard’s fans will remember that she lost 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to No. 75 Vania King on the grass in s-Hertogenbosch a few weeks before she reached last year’s Wimbledon final.
Her finest attribute has always been her fighting spirit. It’s hard to believe that won’t help her overcome the obstacles that are currently preventing her from playing her best tennis.
It has happened to many players – they have a good record against an opponent and are well on the way to yet another win when they experience a temporary lapse or worse, a loss.
Milos Raonic took a 5-0 record into his third-round match with Jeremy Chardy on Monday at the Miami Open. Up until 6-1, 5-3 it was a routine outing against an opponent who double-faulted to lose serve in the second game of the match and generally never looked like he had much genuine belief in himself. But a few unforced errors by Raonic and some suddenly inspired play by Chardy and the No. 38-ranked Frenchman broke serve twice in a row to force a third set.
There was self-pitying and posturing to his courtside team by Raonic that didn’t help his cause as things began to unravel. But he re-composed himself for the final set and managed to eek out a 6-1, 5-7, 7-6(3) victory to set up a meeting Tuesday evening with John Isner, a 7-6(2), 6-2 winner on Monday over Grigor Dimitrov.
The No. 24-ranked American – second-highest in North America to Raonic’s No. 6 – takes a 2-0 career record into the match. Isner won 7-6(5), 6-4 in Cincinnati in 2013 and 7-6(9), 6-4 at Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2012. In both matches the 6-foot-10 Isner broke serve twice and Raonic once.
The winner will likely get No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals and top seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. With no Roger Federer and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal upset in the third round by Fernando Verdasco, the bottom half of the draw appears significantly weaker than the top – with No. 3 seed Andy Murray now the favourite to reach the final.
With a win over Isner, Raonic will reach the quarter-finals (or better) for the ninth time in his last 11 Masters 1000 events.
There’s a chance he could improve his current No. 6 ranking to as high as No. 4 if he continues winning and goes deep in the tournament.
Maybe it’s a good omen for Raonic that the colour scheme of his current New Balance gear blends in almost perfectly with the back screens at the Miami Open.
Vasek Pospisil had mixed results in singles at the Miami Open – upsetting Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 7-6(7) in the first round before exiting 6-2, 6-2 to Grigor Dimitrov in the second.
In doubles he and partner Jack Sock stretched their current winning streak to seven matches with a 6-2, 6-3 win on Monday over Australian Open champions Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini.
Later on Tuesday afternoon, Pospisil and Sock will play unseeded Henri Kontinen of Finland and Marin Draganja of Croatia in the quarter-finals.
Seeded No. 2, the Canadian/American duo are slated to face top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan in Saturday’s final.
Daniel Nestor played with six different partners in 2013 – Bhupathi, Lindstedt, Kubot, Pospisil, Paes and Knowle – so his reported split with Rohan Bopanna after fewer than three months together is nothing new.
It is a surprise because the two have a pair of titles – Sydney and Dubai – already this year. But while Bopanna provided the oomph Nestor likes in terms of serving, he probably wasn’t as adept at the net and on the return as the wily veteran Nestor would have liked.
The 42-year-old Nestor’s new partner for the next few clay-court events will be his fellow senior citizen – 41-year-old Leander Paes of India. That means that Nestor has now played with the three top Indian doubles specialists over the past two years – Mahesh Bhupathi, Bopanna and Paes, with whom Nestor won the 2013 title in Winston-Salem.
The Nestor – Paes combo will feature the two most gifted doubles artists of their time – Nestor was unrivalled in terms of touch and finesse around the net while Paes is a human highlight reel of speed and reflexes.
Nestor has maintained a high No. 5 ATP doubles ranking, but Paes has slipped to No. 25. Worth noting is that Nestor is defending 1,000 points at each of the upcoming Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome, which he won with Nenad Zimonjic last year.
For the record, Nestor has won 87 titles overall, and eight Grand Slams. Paes, who does not have a page in the 2015 ATP Media Guide book for the first time in many years, has won a total of 55 titles, including seven Grand Slams.
Often forgotten fact: Paes won the singles bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
The annual WTA/ATP month of March tour stop in south Florida, where it occasionally rains, has probably had more name changes than any other tournament over the past 30 years.
Here is the evolution of the name and the location:
1985: The Lipton International Players Championships (Delray Beach).
1986: The Lipton International Players Championships (Boca Raton).
1987: The Lipton International Players Championships (Key Biscayne).
1993: The Lipton Championships (Key Biscayne).
2000: Ericsson Open (Key Biscayne).
2003: NASDAQ-100 Open (Key Biscayne).
2007: Sony Ericsson Open (Key Biscayne).
2013: Sony Open Tennis (Key Biscayne).
2015: Miami Open (Key Biscayne).
It’s seldom you read anything quite so blunt about a tournament, especially from a player. But last week Nicolas Mahut of France tweeted the following about the Miami Open.
Et dire qu’il y a 15 ans, le tournoi de Miami était considéré comme le 5ème Grand Chelem!! #sofarawaynow
— Nico Mahut (@nmahut) March 24, 2015
The tweet translated reads, “And to think that 15 years ago, the Miami tournament was considered like the 5th Grand Slam.” There’s no doubt the Key Biscayne event has fallen behind Indian Wells with all the California event’s recent improvements, helped by the largesse of billionaire owner/tennis fan Larry Ellison. But Miami is working on significant upgrades so Mahut’s comment would probably have to be considered a little unfair.
Over the years, Mauricio Paiz has made significant contributions to this blog with his exceptional photographs. He has again generously provided pictures for today’s Tebbutt Tuesday.
Anyone wishing to see more of the work of this former Florida Atlantic University college tennis player, who now resides in Boca Raton, can go to mauriciopaiz.com.