Genie Bouchard’s big Wimbledon third-round on Saturday against Dominika Cibulkova could be billed as a replacement for “the match that never was.”

Last September at the US Open, Bouchard played what was probably her best match of 2015, beating Cibulkova 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 48 minutes full of crowd-pleasing rallies and hard-fought points in Louis Armstrong Stadium. It was a terrific contest, with Bouchard saving three set points to take the first set and then battling until about 7:30 on a Friday evening to overcome the then26-year-old Slovak, runner-up to Li Na at the 2014 Australian Open.

Afterward there was a sense that the Genie Bouchard of a year earlier – the one who made the semifinals of the 2014 Australian and French Opens and reached the final of Wimbledon and a career-high ranking of No. 5 that same year – was back after six months of painfully anemic results.

There was great anticipation for her round-of-16 match-up two days later on Sunday against No. 43-ranked Roberto Vinci, who would go on to eventually upset Serena Williams in the semifinals before losing to Italian compatriot Flavia Pennetta in the final. The way Bouchard played against Cibulkova gave every indication that she had a decent shot against Vinci despite the fact that the Italian veteran had beaten her 6-1, 6-0 a week earlier in the first round in New Haven. Bouchard may have had other things on her mind then because she and Madison Keys were about to take a helicopter immediately after their matches to get to New York City in time for a Nike promotional photo appearance that also included Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov.

After beating Cibulkova that memorable night at Flushing Meadows, Bouchard went out and played a mixed doubles match with partner Nick Kyrgios and then had her media conference.

Everything was upbeat and she said at the time, about her vastly improved play and some pre-tournament help she had received from American legend Jimmy Connors, that is was all about, “putting my head down, working hard, trying just to regain that confidence, that belief.

“I mean, it’s nothing specific. It’s not like a magical word or something you can just do overnight. I’ve been trying the whole year to play well. Just doesn’t always happen.

“So I’m glad that I seem to have found more of my rhythm. Jimmy also helped, as well.”

She added about the counsel from Connors, “it means a lot. He said, ‘you know you’re too good to be having the results you’re having.’ He’s definitely helped me in my time of need.”


Within minutes of speaking with the US Open media that night there was a fateful fall in the locker room and two days later her arrival (above) at the United States National Tennis Centre followed by the announcement that she would be withdrawing from the event because of a concussion. (She only played one set and two games – before retiring with a headache against Andrea Petkovic in Beijing in October – in what remained of the 2014 season.)

So tennis fans and Bouchard’s many admirers never got the chance to see if she would be able to carry over her form from the third-round Cibulkova match to the round-of-16 against Vinci.

Now 10 months later, and after declaring that her 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 victory over 16thseeded Johanna Konta on Thursday was “my best performance of the year,” Bouchard has the opportunity to see if she can reproduce the tennis she showed against Konta when she faces Cibulkova in Saturday’s (weather permitting) third round. Bouchard is third match on No. 2 Court starting at 11 a.m. (between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. EDT in Canada).

genie bouchard
Photo: Fred Mullane

There will be no direct Jimmy Connors influence because Bouchard has not been in touch with the eight-time Grand Slam winner during this year’s Wimbledon.

But there is one big influence on her game who is present. Nick Saviano, whose academy in Florida she first attended at age 12, has been back for three months after coaching her through all her break-out success in 2014.

Because Bouchard did not have one specific coach à la Saviano at the US Open last year, there has been speculation that if he had been there he would not have allowed her to play that mixed doubles with Kyrgios after the exhausting match with Cibulkova – ergo Bouchard might not have had the fall and the concussion because she would have finished much earlier and there would have been more personnel in the allegedly dark areas of the locker room where she fell.

But that’s water-under-the-bridge/topspin-over-the-net and now the tennis world will get to see Bouchard against Cibulkova and whether she can play as well as against Konta.

Genie Bouchard
Photo: Fred Mullane

Bouchard won her other previous meeting with Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the semifinals of the WTA Internationallevel event in Hobart, Australia, pre-Aussie Open in January.

Cibulkova has improved her 2016 ranking from a year’s start of No. 38 to its present No. 18 – her high was No. 10 in March 2014. She won the pre-Wimbledon WTA Premierlevel event in Eastbourne last Saturday defeating No. 10-ranked Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-3 in the final.

pix5-bou-dressThat was her sixth career singles title so she comes into Saturday’s match with lots of confidence. But she also may be a little fatigued compared to Bouchard who lost in the Eastbourne third round 6-3, 6-3 to top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, who subsequently was beaten 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 by Cibulkova in the quarter-finals. A Slovak observer of Cibulkova’s 6-3, 6-2 win over Daria Gavrilova on Thursday suggested she looked a little weary from all the tennis she has played recently.

She may also have other things on her mind. Believe it or not she is planning on getting married next Saturday, July 9 in Bratislava to her long-time boyfriend Miso Navara. That also happens to be the day of the women’s final at Wimbledon, so Cibulkova might have set the date counter-intuitively or may have honestly believed she would not be in the final.

So, Bouchard vs. Cibulkova has an ample number of subplots. There’s Bouchard’s revival, Cibulkova’s desire for revenge for two losses to the Montrealer in less than a year and even the fact that it will take place one week before Cibulkova’s intended wedding day.

The Championships organizers need have no fears – the 27-year-old has made it clear she’s willing to postpone her nuptials if she has to appear in the final on July the ninth. 

Raonic – Sock set for Saturday


Milos Raonic’s third-round match with Jack Sock, planned for third-on No. 1 Court on Friday, was postponed until Saturday. He is now third-on Centre Court starting at 1 p.m. (roughly noon to 2 p.m. EDT in Canada).

Raonic, ranked No. 7, has a 7-1 head-to-head advantage over Sock, having won their last seven meetings, including 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the second round at Wimbledon in 2014.

Sock’s best Grand Slam performance is reaching the round-of-16 at Roland Garros in 2015 (beaten by Rafael Nadal) while Raonic has twice been in semifinals – Wimbledon in 2014 and the Australian Open in January. He also has two Grand Slam quarter-finals – at the 2015 Australian Open and the 2014 French Open.

Raonic’s career record on grass is 24-14 while Sock’s is 11-7.

Everything would seem to point to a Raonic victory. But the No. 26-ranked Sock has weapons – a big serve and a huge forehand – and will feel no pressure and have no expectations based on his recent record against Raonic.

Wimbledon postcard


This is one of the popular dining spots with the players during the Wimbledon fortnight and is located in Wimbledon Village. Apparently Roger Federer is an annual visitor. And this year, but before the tournament began, guess who dropped by? The 2004 women’s champion – a certain Ms. Sharapova who happened to be in London.

Top photo: Fred Mullane