It’s almost impossible to imagine that after all Genie Bouchard has gone through this year – a mysterious fall from grace that included losing 15 of 18 matches between March 17th in Indian Wells and the start of the US Open on August 31st – that she could have a bizarre accident just when she finally seemed to have found her way again. It has forced her to withdraw from the 2015 US Open.
Let’s face it, Bouchard had a creampuff early draw at this year’s US Open – beating Alison Riske and Polona Hercog without much resistance. But her play against Dominika Cibulkova in a 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3 on Friday was vintage stuff against a daunting, indomitable opponent known to be a feisty fighter.
Yet, on the day, it was Bouchard who held her nerve, her composure and showed a newfound resolve in a testing encounter that lasted two hours and 48 minutes.
After the win she said her about her feelings, “coming into this tournament, one win was a huge thing for me. I want to keep it that way – every match try to do as best as you can. Every match in a way is really important to me. That’s how I’m going to look at it.”
Unfortunately, just minutes after she uttered those words in her media conference, she had an accident, which was described in tweets by TSN’s Mark Masters on Sunday.
When Bouchard was heading to ice bath late Friday the room was dark (most had left) + floor recently cleaned; she slipped & hit elbow/head
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 6, 2015
We’re told that Bouchard’s symptoms include sensitivity to loud noises, light… she has a sore neck & a really bad headache — Mark Masters (@markhmasters) September 6, 2015
For the 21-year-old Montrealer (above arriving at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday), it is a tennis tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
Just when she seemed poised to put the travails of the past few months behind her, she is struck down with a concussion and has an uncertain future, at least for the next few weeks.
She was originally supposed to play the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo one week after the US Open ends, but surely that’s now off the table.
It has been a mystery to almost everyone in the tennis world how Bouchard lost her bearings so completely following the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March.
At that event, she beat Lucie Hradecka 6-2, 6-2 in her opening match and then Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-2 and looked to be the Genie Bouchard who had taken the tennis world by storm in 2014 – reaching a high ranking of No. 5 in October. In the next match against No 85-ranked qualifier Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, she injured her abdomen in the second set and needed off-court treatment. Returning, she served for the match at 5-4, and then led 4-0 in the final set before losing six games in a row to lose 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4.
She then dropped six matches in a row before finally beating No. 34-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in Rome before losing six of her next seven through the end of Rogers Cup in Toronto last month.
Where a year ago she seemed self-assured almost cocky, now she was wracked by nerves, frustrated and uncomprehending.
But it all seemed to be set off by that Tsurenko match in Indian Wells. During the French Open, she gave some insight to the significance of it when she said, “the match was very close and tough and stressful and I got hurt (abdominal strain) but it was a close match and I knew I could win it if I played my tennis. But I was a bit hesitant during the match. I think I lost some confidence after that match, even if I shouldn’t because it’s just one match. After that I felt less confident on the court in Miami (Tatjana Maria) and Charleston (Lauren Davis). Since that time, I’d say after Fed Cup (two more surprising losses), in practice and in matches I’ve felt better. There are matches like that sometimes.”
There were also injuries that interrupted normal training and practice – a forearm issue in early March, an ankle problem in Charleston and separate abdominal tears in Indian Wells and again in Eastbourne right before Wimbledon.
While many speculated about a sophomore jinx and distractions of her outside endorsement commitments, it’s more likely that it was those injury interruptions that put her in situations in matches where she wasn’t fit enough to perform at her best. That resulted in compounding disappointing results that ate away at her confidence.
But, remarkable as it seemed, on Friday in Louis Armstrong Stadium, it was a new, revitalized Genie Bouchard, going for her shots and making them, missing shots but not dwelling on them, and battling with a renewed ‘Bouchardian’ spirit, the kind that imposes both her game and her willpower on opponents.
There was a gut feeling that she had turned a corner, that it was highly unlikely that her superb display against Cibulkova, a former world No. 10 and 2014 Aussie Open finalist, was a one-off happening.
It also seemed likely that – notwithstanding that 6-1, 6-0 drubbing by Roberta Vinci in New Haven less than two weeks ago – that she would have the newfound determination and power to just hit through the backhand slices, net rushes and other unconventional tactics of the 32-year-old Italian in their round-of-16 match scheduled for Sunday.
Then it would have been either Kristina Mladenovic or Ekaterina Makarova in the quarter-finals for a chance to play either calendar-year Grand Slam-bound Serena Williams or her sister Venus in the semifinals.
Sadly, that’s no longer possible. But worse, her concussion may have interrupted the impressive momentum she had built through three rounds at the 2015 US Open.
Explaining her recent success and renewed form, on Friday Bouchard attributed it to, “continuing to believe, putting my head down, working hard, just trying to regain that confidence, that belief.”
All her many fans will hope that effort will still pay off when she next plays. It would be a shame if her courageous re-emergence at this year’s US Open is lost in one fateful, fluky miss-step when it was least expected.
One in and one out in doubles
On Saturday, Daniel Nestor and his French partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin racked up their 11th win in 12 matches since hooking up for Rogers Cup last month – defeating Jeremy Chardy of France and Lukasz Kubot of Poland 6-2, 7-5.
Afterward, Nestor, a man of few words on the day, described the 31-year-old Roger-Vasselin’s attributes as “solid in every way.”
It was Nestor’s first match since his 43rd birthday on Friday. Next for the Canada/Franco combination is the sixth-seeded team of Rohan Bopanna of India and Florin Mergea of Romania. Bopanna began 2015 as Nestor’s partner before they split in March.
The result was not as positive for Adil Shamasdin (lower right above) and his Austrian partner Philipp Oswald on Sunday. They were beaten 6-4, 6-4 by the eighth-seeded pairing of Jamie Murray of Britain and Australian John Peers.
It was a straight-forward victory for Andy Murray’s brother and his Aussie partner. Still, it was the best result of his Grand Slam career for Shamasdin, who gets to split $35,025 (US) in prize money with Oswald.
Katherine Sebov (above) and Alejandro Tabilo, both from Toronto, were the only two of the six Canadians in the US Open junior singles events who played on Sunday.
Sebov was beaten 6-4, 6-1 by Aleksandra Pospelova of Russia while Tabilo went down 6-1, 6-4 to American Reilly Opelka, the reigning Wimbledon junior champion.
On Monday, the remaining four Canadians will make their debuts, with Charlotte Robillard-Millette (above with coach Ralph Platz) of Blainville, Que, seeded No. 7, and Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., competing in the girls event while Félix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal and qualifier Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., play in the boys 64-player draw.
Yours truly made an appearance by Skype on CBC News Network on Sunday afternoon taking about Genie Bouchard. When the frame wasn’t quite satisfactory for the technical people in Toronto, an upside-down waste paper basket was needed to provide a better camera angle on the interviewee.
The umpire 24 years later
Standing watching Katherine Sebov’s junior match on Sunday as an official was David Littlefield, the umpire of the famous (infamous?) 1991 US Open match between Jimmy Connors and Aaron Krickstein. The fact that CBS is no longer the rights holder for the US Open (ESPN is), makes you wonder if the old stand-by Connors – Krickstein classic will still be the go-to match for television when rain delays occur.
“They voted that their best match ever in their 37 years,” Littlefield said about CBS and the 1991 fourth-round match when he was subjected to vitriol and vulgar abuse by Connors.
Asked if he gets residuals for that match, Littlefield just laughed, “I wish.”
Inside the US Open
Riding in to the US Open on the Long Island Rail Road, this is a sight from the train at the Flushing Main Street station. The station is located high above the street next to it and some folks have made it a habit to launch old shoes up to the power lines to leave some kind of lasting souvenir.
NOTE: No blog on Labour Day, back from the US Open on Tuesday.