Despite the first-round losses on Tuesday of Canada’s only two French Open main-draw singles players, Genie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil, there were Canadians in action on Wednesday – though all of them in doubles. But first, here are some thoughts from Bouchard’s coach, Sam Sumyk, on his player.
Sam Sumyk is a mid-40s Frenchman who has been coaching Genie Bouchard since February when he ended his five-year association with former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
In an interview in the French sporting daily L’Equipe on Tuesday, Sumyk told writer Sophie Dorgan that, after leaving Azarenka, he wanted to spend time at his home in California (with his wife, former American player Meilin Tu) indulging his passion for surfing.
He explained signing on with Bouchard: “She’s the one that wanted to work with me. For me, sometimes it’s better just to jump in without thinking. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to learn a lot thanks to her. It’s going to be like a fresh start.”
About his new player, he commented, “everything changed for her after her final at (2014) Wimbledon, too fast actually. She went from ‘no one knows who she is’ to a Grand Slam final. That’s heavy. All the parameters change. When you have good results and rise in the rankings, you enter the circle of the most hated players on the tour. Everyone wants to kick your butt. You have to be ready for that. Usually you can get ready for it but she’s learning on the job.”
About Bouchard’s qualities, Sumyk said, “She has a lot of character, but she’s a bit tortured at the moment. Ambitious, very perfectionist people are naturally like that. Her gamestyle is a plus. She hits the ball cleanly. She’s not the most powerful but she has a monstrous capacity for work. Her ambition is obvious even if it’s a little shaky at the moment. It’s up to me to guide her and for the whole team to make her an athlete. She’s hungry to learn.”
About the infamous incident when Bouchard refused to shake the hand of her first match opponent Alexandra Dulgheru during the draw protocol at the Canada – Romania Fed Cup tie in April in Montreal, Sumyk said he has not talked to her about it and that, even if he didn’t approve, she has the right to her own opinions.
About all the expectations placed on her, he noted, “don’t worry, she expects a lot of herself. We opt to prefer to think in terms of progress and the quality of her game. When you’re one of the very best, you naturally have (ranking) points to defend every week. It’s certainly no worse than the guy who has to bring home his salary every month to feed his family. I think it’s a lot better than that.”
Lastly, regarding any reputation she may have as a “bad girl,” Sumyk said, “she’s very nice with everyone. She says ‘thank-you, hello etc.,’ And at least she’s honest. In 2015, honesty is what everything is based on. My job is to make her one of the best players on the planet. All that other stuff, I leave it to others.”
Bouchard is not finished at Roland Garros ’15. She’s involved in a mixed doubles match on Court 9 later on Thursday. Partnering veteran Max Mirnyi, she will take on the No. 2 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Mike Bryan.
She claims she is playing just to have fun, which could be a way to help get her game back on track.
Three for doubles
It was an active day on the Roland Garros doubles front for Canadians, with ultimately the expected results although things were anything but straightforward getting there.
That was certainly the case for No. 2 seeds Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock.
They were playing the unheralded pairing of Victor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic and Joao Souza of Brazil.
Before the match began, it was interesting to note that 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova (above) was having a hit on adjacent Court 12.
Out on remote Court 14 on the low-rent side of Court Suzanne Lenglen, Pospisil and Sock won the first set in a tiebreak after 12 games in which neither team had much trouble holding serve. There was very little to choose between them.
Partway through the set, Australian rising stars Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis scampered along and took seats in with the American coaches who are at Roland Garros with Sock. At one point (above) a little girl went up to Kyrgios (cap backwards) and asked for his autograph. That’s Kokkinakis checking out his arm in the row behind.
In the first-set tiebreak, Pospisil hit a bomb forehand through the middle to give him and Sock a key mini-break and they went on to take it 7-4.
There was a slight sense that Pospisil and Sock, looking very relaxed during a changeover above, felt they might be able to win with their B-games.
The second set looked headed for another tiebreak when Estrella Burgos and Souza broke Pospisil when he served at 4-5. Souza, particularly, was timing his returns well, making volleying tough for both Pospisil and Sock.
Losing the second set seemed to really jolt the reigning Wimbledon champions and it was more of the same when Pospisil served in his team’s first service game of the third set. He double-faulted twice and finally Estrella Burgos and Souza broke when Sock bricked a backhand volley well over the baseline.
Pospisil and Sock unraveled – with the fabled Sock forehand AWOL and a decidedly defeatist attitude prevailing on the court. It got so bad that Estrella Burgos and Souza had three break points leading 3-0 for a double break. On one, it looked like curtains for Pospisil/Sock when Souza had a volley on top of the net but instead of drilling it deep, he hit it a bit short and it bounced up enough so Sock was able to track it down and belt a forehand cross-court winner.
Amazingly, that changed everything and soon Sock was on fire with his rocket forehand and Pospisil was cleaning up everything around the net. They began to dominate and, when they broke in the next game to get back on serve at 2-3, it was easy to sense a major momentum shift. It became clearer and clearer that Estrella Burgos and Souza had missed their opportunity. Suddenly it was like they were pushing an object that had suddenly become heavier and heavier. The teams traded two mini-breaks each in the decisive tiebreak until the No. 2 seeds were able to take a 5-3 lead when Pospisil hit a low service return that Estella Burgos couldn’t handle. Three points later the match was over.
In some ways, Estrella Burgos/Souza deserved to win just because of their plucky effort. It had to be sickeningly obvious to them just how good Pospisil and Sock were once they really got cranking in the middle of the third set.
“His energy was down,” Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau said about Sock’s sketchy form at times, “he wasn’t the same player in the second set. He’s got the shots to dig himself out of a lot of holes. But he and Vasek waited a long time to get going. It’s a risky way to win matches but they got through the first one. That’s always a tough one.”
At one point mid-match, Pospisil came down on his recently injured left ankle on a shot hit near the net. He looked momentarily in pain and Sock seemed to ask him if he was okay. But it didn’t appear to bother him after that.
“He looks okay but there are certain things he still can’t do,” Laurendeau said about Pospisil. “He likes to move a lot up at the net so hopefully it gets better and better as the tournament goes on.”
Daniel Nestor and partner Leander Paes had lost in the opening round of all four of their European clay-court tournaments this year – Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome – since hooking up in April following the hard-court Miami Open.
The oldest current team on the tour – Nestor is 42 and Paes 41 – they desperately needed a win and got one on Wednesday at Roland Garros, defeating Australians James Duckworth and Chris Guccione 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.
After they split the first two sets, Nestor really stepped up his returning to break Guccione in the fifth game of the final set. That appeared it might be enough but Paes had a poor game serving at 4-3 – double-faulting to fall behind 15-30 and then flinching a forehand way out of court on the second break point for the Australians.
The Canadian – Indian duo managed to break Duckworth in the eleventh game and then Paes served out the match to love.
Nestor was probably the sharper player on the day. Paes has as quick hands at the net and as wristy squash-type shots from the baseline as anyone in the game. But his serve, especially the second serve, is a liability for the team. Still, their combination showcases two of the finest shotmakers in doubles from the past two decades.
Nestor, as is his wont, wasn’t overly pleased after the match, saying, “it was a typical first-round match and we were a little tight and didn’t play our best. I thought we let them play their patterns too much.”
On Wednesday, Nestor, who leads the tour in career match wins among active players with 972, was alongside for No. 700 for Paes.
That occurred on Court 9, and on nearby Court 8 Adil Shamasdin of Toronto was playing his eighth doubles Grand Slam main draw. In Casablanca last month, he and partner Rameez Junaid of Australia won the title at the ATP 250 event. It was the second of his career (Johannesburg in 2011).
Shamasdin (volleying above) and Junaid were matched against No. 5 seeds Horia Tecau of Romania and Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands.
After dropping the first set 6-4, the 33-year-old Shamasdin and Junaid, 34, played even with Tecau/Rojer in the second set and even took a 3-1 lead in the tiebreak. They then fell behind 4-3 before Shamasdin hit a fine volley into an open court to level at 4-all. He and Junaid got to 5-all before their more highly-ranked opponents were able to clinch the match with heavy-hitting on the final two points.
The loss for Shamasdin, ranked No. 59 in doubles, takes his overall Grand Slam main-draw record to 3-8.
Paris… Paris… Paris
New Brunswick comes to Paris. This is an ad seen this week in the Cadet Metro station. It promotes McCain’s “potatoes sautéed with parsley.” Délicieux!