Milos Raonic won and Genie Bouchard lost on Monday at the BNP Paribas Open but it wasn’t exactly a rousing victory for the former or a crushing defeat for the latter.
Raonic defeated Bernard Tomic 6-2, 3-0 RET when the Aussie had to stop with a right wrist problem and Bouchard gave all that she had against a crafty opponent in Timea Bacsinszky and came out on the losing end of a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 score.
Tomic, above after winning coin toss – maybe his last good fortune on the day – entered his match with Raonic carrying the wrist issue and never looked like he had any real belief. There was actually a humorous moment at Raonic’s media conference when he was asked about whether he was aware of Tomic’s ongoing wrist trouble. “I watched his previous match but I didn’t know it had escalated that much,” he said. “It was a bit of a surprise he fought hard that first game (losing his serve to 30) and then I think he dwindled away after that.”
When asked if he meant the first game of the match, Raonic simply replied, “yup.”
The match lasted only 36 minutes, including when Tomic got a visit from the trainer late in the first set to have the wrist taped, so the crowd in Stadium 2 really didn’t get much value for money.
Tomic was hardly taking any time between points when he served and it was pretty clear his heart wasn’t in it. “I did what I needed to do,” Raonic summed up about the match. “I put pressure on him early on but then after that it was sort of one or two good points and he’d do his own thing for a little while. There wasn’t a consistent rhythm throughout the whole match.”
Raonic didn’t win every match on Monday. With partner John Isner he was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by the Lopez boys (not brothers) of Spain – Feliciano and Marc.
Both Raonic and Isner are still alive in singles so the doubles loss was not exactly devastating because they now can concentrate all their efforts on singles.
“It allowed me to really ease into things and really see where my leg (right adductor) was,” Raonic said about the benefit of playing the doubles. “It’s been holding up well and I’m ready for whatever challenges are ahead of me.”
The next one will be sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych on Wednesday. The Czech advanced with a 6-1, 7-6(3) win over Borna Coric. Raonic leads their head-to-head 3-2 but the most recent one – in the quarter-finals of Monte Carlo last year – was a 5-2 RET result for the Czech a few weeks before Raonic finally gave in and had foot surgery on May 11. He won three of the other four matches between 2012 and 2014, all of them on hard courts.
Raonic has an 11-1 match record so far at tournaments in Brisbane (a title over Roger Federer in the final), the Australian Open (a semifinal loss to Andy Murray) and two wins at the BNP Paribas Open. He appreciates the conditions in Indian Wells. “I’ve always played well here,” he said. “The ball comes up for me and also it’s a little bit slower so it allows me to organize my game a little bit better. My serve still goes through and is effective and also it just gives me more looks on the return game and just more chances to sort of set up the forehand and try to control the point.”
With not much match discussion necessary after the aborted encounter with Tomic, Raonic was asked about the Maria Sharapova positive drug test situation and responded with some amusing anecdotes. “If there was anything going on in men’s tennis, we’d hear about it I think,” he smiled. “Nobody is being protected by a higher power or anything. Everybody pees the exact same way with the exact same kind of guy watching. Everybody, I’m sure, feels uncomfortable doing it and nobody wants to have a needle in their arm when they’re getting blood tests. I think the lack of conflict or dispute in men’s tennis is a positive sign.”
During the doubles match with Isner, Raonic was sleeveless and headband-less. “I didn’t pack for doubles today,” he joked. “I didn’t have another sleeve, I gave away my sleeve and headband, I had another one, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to do laundry before my next singles match so it didn’t come on.”
Wayne Gretzky (above during Genie Bouchard’s match) was in Raonic’s courtside seats on Monday and later in the same spot in Stadium 1 for Bouchard’s match.
Inadvertently, he played a part in the Bouchard–Timea Bacsinszky match. But more about that later.
Bouchard started slowly against the No. 21-ranked Swiss and found herself down 4-0 against an opponent who has an excellent two-handed backhand, which she times exquisitely, and a not-so-solid forehand that she frequently slices.
Anything Bacsinszky did seemed to unsettle Bouchard in the opening set which lasted a mere 36 minutes.
The second set began with a jolt when Bacsinszky slipped and took a serious fall on the second point, tumbling to the ground. She remained there for a minute or two – again more about that later – and finally got up. After about a 12-minute delay for more than one injury problem, she returned to the court and seemed reasonably fit. She had a bandage on her right knee and on her left elbow, and also a bandage on her left pinky finger and a bruise/scrape on her left hip. She would say later that she didn’t really realize the extent of everything until she took a shower and felt some stinging in a few places on her body.
Bouchard broke to 3-1 in the second set and seemed to have greater control of her ground strokes. But matters flip-flopped from there as Bacsinszky broke back to 3-2 before Bouchard broke to 5-3 and Bacsinszky broke again to 5-all. After Bouchard held to 6-5, Bacsinszky started the 12th game with a double fault and looked shaky on the forehand, finally losing the set when she misfired with one into the net.
Bouchard took a bathroom break after the set and never seemed to find her range in the final set – getting broken in the first game and again in the fifth on her way to trailing 5-1. The match finally ended when she hit a backhand long – her 46th unforced error to go with 25 winners. Bacsinszky had 31 winners to go with 38 unforced errors.
It was interesting to watch Bacsinszky because she, like most players do on their forehand, likes to step around and hit her backhand.
When she lost the first three games of the match quickly, Bouchard waved her towel (above) as a signal for her coach Thomas Hogstedt to come out on court.
“He was telling me I was hitting too much to her backhand,” she said later. “I definitely think I did that again in the third set too much. But, you know, going to her forehand she would give me some slices that were hard to deal with. So sometimes I felt like I had no option.”
That was her only visit from Hogstedt, except that he came out during the 12-minute interruption while Bacsinszky was treated after her fall. Bouchard joked that she didn’t call him out again because they had already spent enough time together during the medical time-out.
After her troubles last spring and summer – going 3-15 starting in Indian Wells until the US Open – and especially after the concussion she suffered at Flushing Meadows, Bouchard is working at keeping things in perspective these days. “I’m over analyzing all the horrible things that happened last year,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to really taking it one week at a time, especially since I started the year. I really had no expectations. I could not look forward to really anything.
“It’s a very long road back to the top, especially after being out a couple months from injuries. I mean, in all honesty, when I started the year I didn’t expect to win a match till April. I had no idea what to expect. I’m doing better than I expected.
“One week at a time is really how I’m doing it. I feel like I have made good steps this year. I just want to train a little bit and get ready for a great tournament (next week) in Miami and keep going.”
Bouchard downplayed any suggestion that her poor performance against Bacsinszky was related to a letdown after her emotional win over longtime rival Sloane Stephens on Saturday. A more likely explanation could be her busy travel schedule of late that saw her play in Doha (third round loss to Zheng Saisai) and then in Malaysia (final loss to Elina Svitolina) right before arriving in Indian Wells.
“There are no excuses,” she said, “but it’s definitely a tough turnaround. I hopefully want two days off. I will negotiate with my coach.
“It’s a good problem to have. I made finals so I can’t complain. I’ve played a lot of tennis in the past two, three weeks. I’m excited to go home and take a couple days off.”
Asked about having Gretzky again supporting her courtside, Bouchard said, “he’s such a legend. I hit with his daughter (12-year-old Emma) yesterday a little bit and we were talking about tennis and hockey and everything. It’s interesting to hear his words. I kind of just try to absorb every word he says and take it like it’s coming from God almost. Because in our country, that’s what he is.”
Surprisingly, the 26-year-old Bacsinszky seemed to admire “The Great One” as much as Bouchard. Her boyfriend Andreas was born in Ottawa when his father was working there and actually still has a Canadian passport although he lives in Europe. Bacsinszky had her picture taken with Gretzky on Sunday and Andreas, a big sports fan, was quite jealous. On Monday, Gretzky was nice enough to wish Bacsinszky good luck when he saw her. They then chatted a bit and she told him what a fan Andreas was but that he was too shy to have his picture taken with him. Gretzky then “ordered” her to tell Andreas to come over and have his picture taken with him.
All of which leads to where Bacsinsky fell during the match – at the end where Gretzky was seated and also on the side of the court where he was located.
After recounting the incident, Bacsinszky, a charming woman who speaks six languages, said laughing about her fall, “last thing about Gretzky. I was like “gee, it’s right in front of him.’ Then I had to stand up right away because the guys (hockey players) are having battles, hitting each other, all the time. I was like ‘I think he’s just 20 metres behind me. I think I have to stand up now.’ It’s a funny thing that I thought about that and I was ‘okay, you’re a warrior, don’t feel the pain, just walk to your chair. You’re going to keep on playing.’”
Bacsinszky obviously did and at the end exchanged pleasantries with Bouchard at the net. “She was really nice actually,” the resident of Belmont-sur-Lausanne said. “She came and she said ‘well-played’ and I was like ‘you too, well-played.’ And she was like ‘I hope you’re okay, how are you feeling?’ I said ‘it’s hurts a little bit but it’s okay. I’m just bleeding a little. That’s it.’ But she was really ‘fair play.’”
Pospisil out in singles, in doubles
It had to be one of the more frustrating matches of his career – Vasek Pospisil’s 1-6, 6-0, 6-1 loss to Gilles Simon in the second round on Sunday.
“I came out and I was playing well and then things turned around quick,” Pospisil said. “I just didn’t feel I was moving as well as I usually do this whole week in general.”
He may have played the price for playing a lot of tennis recently – including Davis Cup against France the weekend before Indian Wells. The BNP Paribas Open is his eighth event of the new year, and on his fourth continent – Chennai, Auckland, Aussie Open, Rotterdam, Marseille, Dubai, Guadeloupe and Indian Wells. “It’s been a lot of weeks in a row right now,” he said. “There’s definitely an aspect of maybe I’m lacking a bit of freshness. The week in Davis Cup was very difficult for me. It took a lot out of me physically. But that’s just the way the schedule is. You want to play the big events and I didn’t have the start I wanted to the first two or three tournaments so I felt like I wanted to play a couple of extra events. It’s not easy to balance the schedule.”
Pospisil seemed to struggle physically after the first set, sometimes hitting his thighs with his racquet as if they were getting tight.
It was also a hot day and the heat may also have been getting to him.
Trailing 5-0 in the third set, and having lost 11 games in a row, he got a little bit of his anger out by tossing one of his drinks in the air – as is seen in the photo above.
At least Monday had a better ending for him as he and Jack Sock won their second-round doubles match 6-3, 6-7(6), [10-5] over Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil and Guido Pella of Argentina.
Indian Wells post card