The two Canadians in action on the opening day of the 2016 Australian Open were at opposite ends of the win/loss spectrum – Genie Bouchard was efficient in disposing of Aleksandra Krunic 6-3, 6-4 while Vasek Pospisil was lacklustre in a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 loss to Gilles Simon.
Bouchard really only looked in trouble when she lost her serve – committing two double faults – to go down 2-3 in the opening set against the No. 121-ranked Serb. But Krunic played a poor game to give back the break and then Bouchard basically took over the match – hitting harder and more consistently than her 22-year-old opponent who was hit and miss, especially on the forehand side.
The match lasted just 66 minutes and Bouchard showed no ill effects of her sketchy performance in a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Alizé Cornet in the final in Hobart on Saturday.
Pospisil won the first set in a sloppily played tiebreak and neither player really distinguished himself in windy and very hot conditions. When Simon broke serve in the second game of the second set, the match completely turned the Frenchman’s way. Two games later Pospisil called for the trainer and was soon stretched out on court being worked on. He later revealed that he had a left hip issue. When Simon broke again in the first game of the third set there was a definite sense of inevitability about the result.
Afterward, Pospisil said that there were off-court distractions that had compromised his effort.
Bouchard showed few effects of the adjustment she had to make between Hobart and Melbourne. “It was a tough turnaround,” she said. “I flew from Hobart to Melbourne Saturday night and I had one day here and other things to do off court as well. It was tough but it’s a good problem to have so I can’t complain.
“I wanted a lot of matches and I think that’s what I got a couple of weeks into the year.”
Two weeks ago she went 2-1 in Shenzhen, China – losing to a red-lining Timea Babos in the quarter-finals – and then was 4-1 in Hobart.
Bouchard’s match with Krunic was so relatively uneventful that there were no actual questions about it in her media conference. Instead, the focus was on her comeback from the concussion she suffered at the US Open on September 6.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself,” she admitted. “I really had zero expectations and I still do. I had no idea what could potentially happen because I had so much time off and experienced something I’d never experienced in my life. I’m happy that I’m able to find some kind of somewhat decent form so far but I know I have a long road to go.
“I wasn’t even sure I would be in Australia and I wasn’t even sure how my season would start for me. My goal is really to be healthy and enjoy myself on the court and play as well as I can. I’m just glad to be back on tour – I’ve missed this a lot.”
Bouchard’s “Genie Army” reported for duty on Monday evening in Show Court 2 and were vocal with their usual series of chants and enthusiastic exhortations.
They still have faith in their favourite player – especially after a beer or two – and so does she.
“Deep down I know I still believe in myself and have those dreams that I know I can achieve, those really high expectations of myself,” she said. “I would say that just since my injury – it wasn’t a normal injury. I didn’t know how I would react after it so I think it’s mostly because of that that I’ve had zero expectations since I’ve been back. Hopefully things keep progressing and I can start putting expectations on myself and start feeling pressure.”
Bouchard reached the quarter-finals a year ago at Melbourne Park and if she is to do so again she will have to beat No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in Wednesday’s second round.
“I played her once [losing 7-6(3), 6-2 in Madrid in 2014 before her run to the Roland Garros semifinals] and once at Hopman Cup,” Bouchard said about the 26-year-old Pole. “She’s an amazing player. I don’t think she’s lost in a while now so she’s definitely going to be confident and I’m going to go out there and play my game, be aggressive and try and move forward and really dominate and see what happens, really enjoy it really.”
Radwanska won the last two tournaments she played in 2015 – in Tianjin, China, and the WTA Finals in Singapore (despite losing two matches in the round-robin portion) and then the opener in 2016 in Shenzhen.
After her one-sided loss to Cornet last Saturday, Bouchard told media in Hobart, “I woke up and just had personal family issues at home and things like that. I couldn’t keep my focus and as soon as things started going downhill, I really couldn’t keep my emotions together. So things were out of my control.”
After beating Krunic, she was asked to elaborate about the situation and replied, “It’s not something I’m going to talk about. I just brought it up to be honest first of all. That’s how I felt before and during the match. And also, not as an excuse, but I feel I definitely could have done so much better in terms of my concentration and emotional control and things like that. I was just being honest in that sense.”
In all the talk about her comeback from the concussion and her hopes for the new season, one thing from the present was not mentioned – the rather short Nike dress she debuted. It’s likely it will get more attention on Wednesday when she plays in one of the main stadiums – Rod Laver Arena or Margaret Court Arena for her high-profile match-up against Radwanska.
There was a fun atmosphere in Show Court 2 before the Pospisil – Simon match, with a hardy bunch of Canadian supporters being a little cheeky with the following chant:
“Gimme a “Pos.”
“Gimme a “Pis”
“Gimme a “Sil.”
That got a laugh and Pospisil played okay in the first set, particularly serving well (he finished with 19 aces). But as mentioned earlier, from the second set onward the match was virtually all Simon.
Despite the fact that Simon has a bad right shoulder and was serving incredibly slowly, Pospisil was unable to capitalize.
Afterward, Simon was asked how he was able to just average 158 km/hr on first serves and 132 km/hr on second serves – compared to 193 km/hr and 161 km/hr for Pospisil.
“Was there something wrong with my serve?” Simon joked in reply. “I didn’t get broken so maybe I should always serve slow like that. Seriously, he (Pospisil) had trouble controlling the ball from the back of the court and his serve kept him in much of the match.”
The “refreshed” Pospisil backers above kept the faith but unfortunately there probably really was no hope for the current world No. 39 against the 14th-seeded Frenchman.
“I wasn’t myself out there, I didn’t play well,” Pospisil said, “I didn’t come into this tournament with the form I wanted to.”
He continued, “it could be a number of things. I have a few off-court distractions that I need to sort out a little bit. You try to do the best you can to be in the best state to play in but unfortunately this week wasn’t the week for me.”
With his past history, some in the crowd had to suspect it was cramps that caused him to call for the trainer after the fourth game of the second set. “It was my left hip,” he said. “I was getting pain in practice a little bit and the treatment seemed to help. It did but it got significantly better when I got the treatment.
“I wasn’t feeling great on the court, that’s what it comes down to. There’s more to it (than the injury) but I don’t want to get into it. There are a few extra distractions off court which had a role in today’s match for sure.”
Pospisil is slated to play doubles with Jack Sock, but that did not seem like a sure thing. The American had to pull out of the final in Auckland on Saturday against Roberto Bautista Agut early in the second set with an illness.
“We’ll see, I don’t know,” Pospisil said about doubles. “I heard that Jack was not feeling well from last week, so depending on him as well. We’ll take it day by day. I haven’t really spoken to Jack much the last few days.”
All and all, it’s been a downer for Pospisil at this year’s Australian Open, especially because the last two years he reached the third round at Melbourne Park.
Milos Raonic made the rounds doing photo shoots for the ATP on Saturday – posing for pictures and videos that will be used in promotional material during the year.
He also took time to speak with yours truly – and below is our conversation.
In the opening match at 11 a.m. on Tuesday (7 p.m. EST Monday in Canada) the No. 13-seeded Canadian will face No. 73-ranked Lucas Pouille of France. Two weeks ago in the Brisbane International, Raonic beat Pouille 6-4, 6-4 in the quarter-finals.
The match is on the same Show Court 2 where Genie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil played their matches on Monday.
Australian post card
Connoisseur ice cream is a popular brand in Australia – and is available at Melbourne Park. As is obvious above, it is currently introducing a taste flavour familiar to many Canadians.