It was a 6-2, 6-2 beatdown by world no. 1 Simona Halep in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday, but Genie Bouchard didn’t appear to be devastated by the result.
In fact, in her post-match press conference she was talking about her immediate plan to play a low-level WTA International Series tournament in Taiwan beginning the week of January 29.
Her ranking will be in unfamiliar territory after the Australian Open – outside the top-100 – at about No. 119, but there were a few moments on Thursday night in Margaret Court Arena when she played like the frisky, free-swinger who made it to no. 5 in the world as a 20-year-old in the fall of 2014.
Much of the talk before the match had been about the left ankle sprain that Halep had suffered at the beginning of the second set of her 7-6(5), 6-1 victory over Aussie 17-year-old Destanee Aiava on Tuesday.
Some people thought she might not play. “Obviously I heard about it but she still won a set 6-1 after that happened,” Bouchard said referring to Halep’s previous match. “In my head I saw the match as a normal match against a perfectly fit opponent who was moving well and fit and playing well today.”
There were definite times when Halep did not finish a movement – particularly going to the left – to protect the ankle. But players can often play better with a physical impediment because it makes the mind focus more intensely.
“Even if I’m a little bit injured, I moved very well,” the 26-year-old Romanian said in her post-match on-court interview. “I feel the pain but I didn’t think about.” An example is the picture above when she stretched to the backhand side in the very first game of the match.
While she had slightly higher velocity serves than Halep, Bouchard’s percentages of points won behind her first serve (45%) and second serve (25%) were woeful as was the fact that she won just 27 percent of baseline points compared to Halep’s 64 percent during the 65-minute match.
“I think my movement and fitness are not where they should be,” Bouchard said summing things up from her side. “And obviously against a great player, who gets a lot of balls back, who is fit, I need to be able to stay with her. I feel I didn’t do that as well as I would want to.”
About getting fitter, she explained, “That takes time. I feel like I put in some good work in the off-season but I was starting from a very low point. I wasn’t even starting from normal me. I was like unfit – not good tennis me.”
Bouchard, as seen above walking on court before the match, attributed her lack of fitness partly to an ankle injury she suffered in Nuremberg, Germany, the week before last year’s French Open, and then to not playing many matches, especially last autumn.
She will play the Taiwan event – hitting partner Robbye Poole (pictured right above) will be with her but coach Harold Solomon (left) will miss the event. After that Bouchard may possibly play the $140,000 Oracle Challenger Series tournament at Indian Wells – the same site that hosts the WTA Premier Mandatory BNP Paribas Open, which begins the following week. She said she was willing to play any level of tournament but admitted she would like a wild card into the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open.
There’s a chance she could miss the Oracle Series tournament because of the late February trial for her lawsuit against the USTA related to the fall she took in the locker room late at night during the 2015 US Open.
“I have no idea what to expect,” she said about the trial. “I’m happy that it’s coming up and then, after, it’ll be resolved regardless of what happens, I can move on. I haven’t prepped in any way. I’ll obviously be in New York with my lawyer beforehand and prepare as he sees fit. It’ll be an interesting life experience.”
Asked what effect she thought the whole incident (the fall and subsequent concussion) had on her tennis over the past few years, Bouchard answered, “I don’t know if I should talk much about that, considering I’m going to court in a few weeks. (It was) just a very, very unfortunate incident and, like I said, I’m looking forward to it being resolved.”
She added, “It hasn’t bothered me in any way. I’ve actually been happy that I’ve had this going and I feel like maybe I would have a chance for justice in a way. It hasn’t been cumbersome but I will be happy when it’s over.”
Regarding the immediate pressing professional matter of dealing with her status as a no. 119-ranked player, she said, “my ranking is where my ranking is. It’s reality so I’ll play where I deserve to play and hopefully, if I’m playing the right way, then things will change.
“I’m not freaking out like everyone who’s saying, ‘oh my God, your ranking is out of the top-100.’ For me it’s just like that and I know that I can play good tennis.
“What else am I going to do? Change jobs if I’m not able to go play smaller tournaments? Become a librarian or something?”
One American reporter couldn’t resist a cheeky rebuttal and asked her if she would be a good librarian. Bouchard smiled and replied, “I would. I mean I love books and I love reading, but I need something more exciting in life.”
Gabriela Dabrowski was the only Canadian winner on day four of the Australian Open. Fresh off a victory with her regular partner Xu Yifan of China at the WTA Premier event in Sydney last week, the no. 6 seeds won convincingly over Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and Italian Francesca Schiavone.
The Dabrowski/Xu combo were at the top of their game, saving all three break points they faced and putting away their experienced opponents – Flipkens (32) and Schiavone (37) – by a score of 6-3, 6-2 in 62 minutes.
In the second round on Friday, Dabrowski and the left-handed Xu, both ranked no. 14 in the WTA doubles rankings, will be matched against Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova and Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova.
The two Canadian men in action on Thursday – Vasek Pospisil and Adil Shamasdin – were eliminated in the first round.
Playing on Court 22 right after Dabrowski and Xu, Pospisil and America’s Ryan Harrison lost 6-2, 7-6(5) to 10th seeds Rohan Bopanna and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
American doubles expert Scott Davidoff, who works with Bopanna and Dabrowski among others, summed up the match, saying, “You’ve got four of the top doubles players in the world – Vasek and Ryan are still top singles players that are proven (doubles) Grand Slam winners (Pospisil with Jack Sock at Wimbledon in 2014 and Harrison with Michael Venus of New Zealand at last year’s French Open). It was high quality from the beginning but it was the first time these two – Pospisil and Harrision – have played together so maybe there were communication errors on a few points and Rohan and Edouard were able to take advantage.
“They (Bopanna and Roger-Vasselin) got the break (on Harrison’s serve) in the third game of the first set with four strong service returns.
“In the second set, there weren’t many opportunities for either team and it went to a tiebreaker. Unfortunately for Vasek, in the tiebreaker they had to switch sides and he had to serve into the sun and it was his first time against the sun and the wind. He double-faulted twice at 2-1 to go down 4-1.”
Pospisil and Harrison got one mini-break back but wound up losing the tiebreak 7-5.
Shamasdin of Pickering, Ont. was the other Canadian in action on Day 4. He and his British partner Neal Skupski were beaten 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 by Marcus Daniell of New Zealand and Dominic Inglot of Britain.
With Daniel Nestor and Genie Bouchard’s losses, Dabrowski is the lone Canadian remaining in doubles. She’s also in the mixed with Mate Pavic of Croatia. They’re the eighth seeds.
Australian Post Card
This is a cabbage moth photographed on the No. 70 Docklands tram earlier this month.
Locals claim that cabbage moths and caterpillars “eat everything in your garden.” One joked that maybe the cabbage moth’s antenna can pick up live streams.