Genie Bouchard will be trying to get past the third round at the BNP Paribas Open for the fourth time in her career when she makes her debut in Indian Wells, California, on Thursday.
She’ll play No. 61-ranked Annika Beck in a 7 p.m. (10 p.m. ET in Canada) match in main Stadium 1. The two have split two previous encounters – Beck winning in Dubai in 2014 and Bouchard exacting revenge in New Haven right before last year’s US Open.
Now ranked an unflattering No. 53, Bouchard has made it to the third round the past three years in Indian Wells before losing 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 to No. 7-ranked Simona Halep in 2014, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4 to No. 85-ranked Lesia Tsurenko in 2015 and 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to No. 21 Timea Bacsinszky last year.
The loss to Tsurenko, who just won the WTA International Series event in Acapulco last week, was the strangest of the three. Bouchard required off-court treatment for an abdominal strain and had a visible bulge in her top where her stomach had been wrapped. Still she returned and eventually took a 4-1 lead in the final set only to have the Ukrainian run off six games in a row.
Even last year’s loss to Bacsinszky was a little odd as the Swiss took a hard fall early in the second set and had blood on her left elbow and her right knee. That match also featured current Bouchard coach Thomas Hogstedt (at top here) trying to hit a few shots with his player while Bacsinszky was involved in a medical time-out. But that was quickly denied by the WTA supervisor.
Bouchard’s record is 6-4 in four appearances in the desert but this year’s event might be more challenging because she is playing only her second match in 47 days since a third-round loss to Coco Vandeweghe at the Australian Open.
Last week, in her first match back, she lost 7-6(4), 6-1 to unranked Ajla Tomljanovic (returning from shoulder surgery) in Acapulco.
But things could be aligning for her in the draw, especially as an unseeded player. If she can get past Beck, she would play No. 28 seed Kristina Mladenovic and then possibly the fourth-seeded Halep. The Romanian could be vulnerable because she’s returning after playing just one match – withdrawing with an ongoing knee issue from her second match in St. Petersburg, Russia in early February – since a first-round loss at the Aussie Open.
Bouchard drew a large throng of spectators for her noontime practice session on Wednesday and she should not be lacking for fan support when she plays Beck Thursday evening.
The picture above was taken before all the fireworks began during the draw ceremony on Tuesday. As can be seen, Roger Federer had yet to be picked out to play in the same eighth of the draw with Rafael Nadal.
That means a round-of-16 meeting for two of the greatest players of all time. With Nadal seeded 6th and Federer No. 9, the Spaniard was going to play someone from nine to 16 and it just happened to be Federer.
But not only are Federer and Nadal going to meet in that quarter of the draw if they win their first two matches against beatable competition, but second seed Novak Djokovic and No. 31 Juan Martin del Potro just need to win one match each before a second superstar confrontation in that super-charged portion of the draw.
If those two matches aren’t enough for possibly big-time early battles, there’s one other in that super significant section. Probably the two best young talents, No. 15 seed Nick Kyrgios and No. 18 Alexander Zverev could meet in the third round. Both have byes and need only win one match to set up a fascinating duel of future Grand Slam champions or world No. 1s. The winner would potentially play either Djokovic or del Potro in the round-of-16.
About the highly-unusual draw, Federer said, “I heard that I played Dudi Sela or Stéphane Robert and I’m like ‘okay fine.’ Then I heard that Rafa was in my section and I was like ‘okay.’
“And then that maybe Novak’s in my section and I’m ‘okay fine,’” he said smiling. “It doesn’t matter. I’ve gone through so many draws. I came here to Indian Wells to play against those guys, so it doesn’t matter if it’s the semis, the final or maybe a fourth round. I think it’s good for me to play those guys early. I look forward to it.”
Asked if he’d seen anything like that in previous draws in his career, he replied, “I’ve definitely had a lot of tough draws. I remember playing, in 2004, in Dubai after winning against (Marat) Safin in the finals of the Australian Open. I played him in the first round in Dubai because he was still unseeded. So that was tough.”
He then added with a mischievous grin, “that was probably tougher than Dudi Sela – Stéphane Robert.”
As for top seed Andy Murray (above in scrum), who is right at the very top, kitty corner from the overloaded bottom quarter, he described the Federer-Nadal part as nothing less than, “one of the toughest sections of a draw of all time.”
Vasek Pospisil qualified for the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 179-ranked Rajeev Ram of the U.S. on Wednesday.
The tennis was a little patchy with Pospisil getting the crucial break at 4-3 in the second set when, on break point, Ram challenged a Pospisil inside/out forehand on the sideline and Hawk-Eye revealed that the shot was just in.
From then on Pospisil took control – finishing with a solid 76 per cent of points won on first serve and 60 per cent on his second.
He was 3 of 12 in break points won to just one of five for Ram.
“I’m happy to be through,” Pospisil said afterward, adding about the second set, “I wasn’t overly nervous because I wasn’t finding the groove that I wanted. Then it came and it was good but at 4-1 or 4-2 in the third I kind of felt my back a little bit. It was starting to stiffen up on me. And I worried about that a little bit.
“Then I got lucky to get the second break and serve it out. I’m hoping it (the back) is not going to be anything. It’s just sort of been lingering since San Francisco (the final of a Challenger event the second week after February the week after Davis Cup in Ottawa). It’s kind of been going on and off.”
About his plans immediately after the match, he said, “I’ll just see the physio and hopefully I don’t play tomorrow. It doesn’t feel good but I’m just happy that I played a good level.”
It turns out he does play on Thursday – fifth match in Stadium 3 (starting at 11 a.m.) against Yen-Sun Lu of Taipei. Pospisil has won their previous meetings. Both were in 2015 – at Rogers Cup in Montreal and in Atlanta.
On a lighter note, asked to comment about the short haircut of his coach Mark Woodforde (seated above with Pospisil’s parents Mila and Milos) he said. “I like it. I hadn’t noticed it was shorter. He’s got good hair, I’m jealous a little bit.”
When a reporter joked that “a lot of people are jealous of your hair, except Frank Dancevic,” Pospisil laughed, “Yeah, Frank’s money!”
What could be more typical of life in the California desert that a follically-challenged, white-haired old guy driving a convertible.