Mauricio Paiz

The emphasis is on the ‘au revoir’ part above because it’s almost universally understood in tennis that Eugenie Bouchard will be back, that she’s on the fast track to appearing in many more big matches in the greatest centre-court stadiums in the world.

Bouchard may have lost her Roland Garros semi-final on Thursday 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to Maria Sharapova, but she gave such a terrific account of herself on one of the sport’s grandest stages that great champions from the past are convinced she’ll win Grand Slam titles.

A couple of them can be found near the end of this piece.

Mauricio Paiz

How to sum up a performance by the 20-year-old Montrealer that was basically only lacking one thing – a winning result? Well let’s start with courageous, composed and totally committed to playing to the max of her ability.

Her coach Nick Saviano would later say, “the goal today was, not so much the winning, the goal today was to give herself the best opportunity – play as well as she can on every point, stay focused in every moment, knowing that the byproduct of that is going to give herself the best chance to win.”

Remaining true to herself and her fixation on never being satisfied no matter how well she plays, Bouchard insisted afterward, “I felt the whole match I didn’t play as well as I have played earlier in the tournament. It’s always disappointing to be a little bit off. Often I constructed the point well and then didn’t finish it as well as I could.”

Most people would think she is being way overly self-critical.

Mauricio Paiz

Bouchard was the better player in the first set and had her chances late in the second when she trailed 5-3, but broke back, saving three set points (two of them on shaky Sharapova double faults) and then held serve to make it 5-all.

“I thought she was going to come back and win that second set – even when she was down a break,” Saviano said. “I felt she was going to come back because I know Genie, she wasn’t going to go away – and she didn’t. I thought she could take it in two. At that point, just knowing her and the feel of the match, she started to get some momentum going and just came up a little short.”

Bouchard was great at countering Sharapova’s power with major-league hitting of her own. She was so brilliant at taking Sharapova’s backhand cross-court service returns from the ad-side and re-directing them down-the-line for winners that the tall, angular Russian could only watch dejectedly as they whizzed through vacant patches of red clay. Each one drew a loud eruptions of approval from the pro-Bouchard crowd.

Mauricio Paiz

I happened to be sitting right near Sharapova’s coach Sven Groeneveld and at one point after Bouchard’s continued success with that backhand down-the-line, he called out “middle” when Sharapova was about to return from the ad-side – not wanting his player to give Bouchard the angle for that preemptory strike down-the-line.

I noted some of the other things he called out and they included, “here we go, play tennis,” “c’mon every point,” “take it” and “let’s go Maria.”

As is noted further down, everyone marveled at Bouchard’s ball-striking, how she takes it early and is unrelenting at maintaining the attack.

Mauricio Paiz

When I asked Sharapova to compare Bouchard to the player she beat 6-2, 6-4 at Roland Garros a year ago, she said, “I think she’s a bit more aggressive than before. Her technique is a little different. I think she throws a lot of weight into her shots and creates a lot of power by doing that.”

It was interesting that Sharapova remarked about Bouchard “throwing herself into her shots” and I had to ask a follow-up. “How do you know that she throws herself into her shots? Were you studying her or did you notice that today?”

“I noticed that today,” she replied.

It was somewhat surprising that a player, in the heat of a very high-intensity match, would notice something like that about an opponent.

But it was not as if she was the only one, the mainly French crowd in Court Philippe Chatrier (yes that’s the Eiffel Tower off to the right in the picture at the top) was quick to roar its approval of her dazzling and enterprising shot-making.

“The crowd was really fun,” Bouchard said. “They make it fun to play in a full stadium like that.”

Mauricio Paiz

On a mainly glorious, sunny afternoon, Bouchard going virtually toe-to-toe (29 winners to 33 for Sharapova) with a four-time Grand Slam champion, one step away from a final, was riveting viewing for the spectators in Court Philippe Chatrier and two former players who have competed at the highest level.

Amélie Mauresmo, who never won her home tournament at Roland Garros but was champion of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006, said about Bouchard after the match, “I really like what’s she’s doing – she’s been a real revelation for a few months now. There are a lot of positive things in her game – she’s aggressive, she comes to the net, she’s mentally strong. Today she really wasn’t far away. I think she’s a future Grand Slam winner. She’s got all the qualities to make that happen.”

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Anastasia Myskina was the Roland Garros champion 10 years ago in 2004, becoming the first Russian woman to win a Grand Slam title.

“I haven’t seen that much of Bouchard but I really enjoyed the match today,” Myskina said. “I think she was a little bit tired at the end because it was a long tournament and she played really well before it (winning in Nuremberg). Physically, I don’t think she was quite ready for that kind of match. But I think she is really good.

“She takes the ball so early and she moves really well. She can do the drop shot which a lot of people can’t do now. She has a really good serve – wide in the ad court. She can do a lot of things – go to the net – close the point. Sometimes she misses a bit but she’s got a great future.”

Stacey Allaster, WTA chairman and CEO, is admittedly biased as a Canadian, but she could hardly have been more glowing in her assessment. “What a great day for Eugenie Bouchard and for Canadian tennis and for women’s tennis worldwide,” Allaster exclaimed. “I knew it would be three sets. I knew she’d show the confidence of a champion – and she delivered. She’s going to win a Grand Slam – it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

On what impressed her, Allaster added, “Eugenie never gave up. In that second set, she got behind and she rallied. She played like a champion, with confidence and she went for her shots. She knew she had to be aggressive and take that ball early against Maria and she stayed with it. She played big tennis.”

Mauricio Paiz

Of all the people in the crowd, Saviano (extreme left above) probably had the most invested in Bouchard, except for her mother Julie (in pink and sunglasses above).

“We’ve been very close for a long time,” Saviano said about his relationship with Bouchard. “I’m probably the only one in the tournament who’s been working that long with an individual. I’ve been close with her, and with the family. And seeing her develop, and knowing all the ups and downs. I met her at the 12-and-under Eddie Herr (tournament in Florida). When you kind of put that in perspective and go through all the different processes…obviously I have a great affection for her, great respect for her mother and her father. There’s a lot of pride in seeing her development. It’s painful to have to watch her go through a tough loss.”

Bouchard was supposed to play next week’s grass-court tournament in Birmingham, England, but it appears as if she will now take the week off after playing 11 matches in 18 days since the beginning of the Nuremberg event.

That would limit her Wimbledon competition preparation to Eastbourne, which begins in 10 days.

Reaching the semifinals at the French Open will move her ranking up to No. 12 – making her the second-highest ranked Canadian in WTA history – ahead of Helen Kelesi who made it to No. 13 in 1989. Carling Bassett, who got to No. 8 in 1985, is the only Canadian woman still ahead of her.

Milos Raonic is the Canadian best among men at his current No. 9.

Mauricio Paiz

At her post-match media conference in French, Bouchard repeated about the match, “I don’t think I played at the level I can, but even then I was really close. That gives me lots of confidence that I’m really close to being at that level, to winning big tournaments and being the player I want to be.”

The final word goes to Saviano, who said this about his brief post-match conversation with Bouchard, “I just told her I was proud of her, that she should be proud of herself. It was a great tournament and she came close. And I told her that she’ll get there one day.”



Mauricio Paiz

As the Bouchard – Sharapova match went along on Thursday, I started to sense that the change-overs were unusually short. Finally, I started timing them and, sure enough, umpire Mariana Alves was consistently calling “time” to end them after just 60 seconds.

The normal time for end changes is 90 seconds, with two minutes at the end of a set.

I couldn’t find anyone in the referee’s office to explain this, but I checked with people working in the television compound. They told me that they had a lot of trouble getting their usual packages in during the change-overs because they were so short. But, apparently, this may only have occurred during the Bouchard–Sharapova match – not during the second semifinal between Simona Halep and Andrea Petkovic.

I will check on this Friday and report back in this space.


Francoise Abanda defeated Paula Badosa Gibert of Spain 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in Friday’s quarter-finals of the junior girls event at Roland Garros.

It was a long struggle on Court 16 and the 17-year-old’s reward is a second Grand Slam semifinal in junior singles. At just 15, she was a semifinalist at Wimbledon 2012, the year that Eugenie Bouchard, 18, won the title.

On Friday, Abanda, who has grown and is slightly taller than the 5-foot-10 Bouchard, will play top-seeded Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, also 17.

Jorovic’s path to the semis has been pretty impressive – only in a 7-6(4), 6-2 win over American Usue Maitane Arconada in the second round was she extended at all.


The use of English is getting a little out of hand in Paris. Watching French TV on Thursday, the background music for an accounting firm commercial was a campy old American ditty.

And the restaurant (above) near Roland Garros, was until this year called “Tse,” and had an Asian fusion menu.

Mary Goodnight is a pretty lame name for a restaurant – even it were somewhere that’s English-speaking.

NOTE: There will be mini-blogs here about Francoise Abanda as long as she remains in the junior tournament. A look back at the final outcomes of Roland Garros ’14, complete with pictures, will be included in the regular Tebbutt Tuesday blog next week.