Mauricio Paiz

Eugenie Bouchard, Frank Dancevic and Milos Raonic will take to the lawns of Wimbledon on Thursday in search of a spot in the third round.

For Bouchard, that would equal the result of her Wimbledon debut a year ago. As for Dancevic and Raonic, neither has been past the second round in a combined four – three by Raonic and one by Dancevic – tries.

Of course, Bouchard, 20, and Raonic, 23, are ultra-ambitious and hope that soon making the third round at Wimbledon will not be viewed as anything exceptional. As for Dancevic, who turns 30 in September, this could be one of his final chances to have a good run at the Big W.

After a solid performance in dispatching Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 7-5 in Tuesday’s opening round, Bouchard goes out – second match on No. 2 Court – as a strong favourite against No. 75-ranked Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain.

The two have played only once before – Bouchard winning 6-3, 6-3 on clay in Strasbourg right before the 2013 French Open. It is somewhat of a surprise that the 26-year-old Spaniard is in the main draw via a wild card.

The back story is that Soler-Espinosa was ranked No. 115, just outside the direct entry mark of No. 108, six weeks before Wimbledon began.

Then a couple of strong performances on clay – reaching the final of the WTA event in Strasbourg and then winning two rounds at the French Open over No. 96 Chanelle Scheepers and No. 64 Yanina Wickmayer before losing to No. 148 Kiki Bertens – boosted her ranking into the Top 100.

Apparently an intervention by Conchita Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion and a coach with the Spanish Tennis Federation, resulted in Soler-Espinosa getting what seems to be an unlikely wild card.

But it is the 20th anniversary of the Martinez victory – beating Martina Navratilova in a final that denied the great Czech-American a 10th Wimbledon title.

“She’s feisty on the court and will fight a lot,” Bouchard said about Soler-Espinosa, who is basically a traditional Spanish clay-court type player. “But I’ll fight too, so it will be a battle. I’ll look to cut the ball off a little more and go for it a little more.”

Bouchard tuned up for Wimbledon with some hard practice action with the likes of former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and No. 3 seed and recent French Open runner-up Simona Halep. (Azarenka lost to Bojana Jovanovski on Wednesday but she looked sharp in her practice set with Bouchard last Saturday.)

Asked which has been her best pre-tournament test, Bouchard replied, “I think Vika (picture above) was probably the best one. She brings intensity to the practice and I do as well. So it was good.”

Bouchard – matches, practice, workouts – never seems to take her eyes off the prize or be distracted from her goals which are as lofty as is possible.

Mauricio Paiz

On Wednesday, she partnered Heather Watson in an opening round doubles match and they were beaten 6-4, 7-6(3) by the six seeds, Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua of Australia.

Bouchard had a bandage on her right knee. I happened to cross her path after the match and asked her if it was related to the slip and fall she had late in her match with Hantuchova on Tuesday. “No, that was the other knee,” she said. “This is just preventative.”

Raonic seems in peak health as he gets ready to play Jack Sock, the 21-year-old American who currently ranks No. 77.

Raonic and Sock have played three times:

  • Sock def. Raonic 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 first round Memphis, 2013.
  • Raonic def. Sock 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 first round Cincinnati, 2013.
  • Raonic def. Sock 6-4, 7-6(1) second round Miami, 2014.

The loss in Memphis came right after Raonic had won the San Jose title just three days earlier and he was probably not at his best right off the top in that event.

Sock, who beat Dudi Sela 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in his first Wimbledon, is a big server with a bit of a cocky attitude that he can beat anyone.

Off the court, his girlfriend is fellow American and current world No. 18 Sloane Stephens, who might or might be around to watch him after being upset by Maria Kirilenko in the first round.

Based on their ages, the Raonic – Sock match-up is potentially one that could develop into a Canada – USA rivalry over the next several years.

“I’ve played him a few times, so I understand what I need to do,” Roanic said about playing Sock, a 6-foot-2 right-hander. “I’ve always had a tough time with him, even when I’ve been able to win.

“I know that I can sort of find the solutions. I feel like I’m playing well and feel like I will like I will play better.”

The match is slated for 11:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. EDT) on No. 3 Court.

Dancevic, after conquering the high-powered serving of Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 7-6(5), 7-6(4) in the first round, plays No. 63-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin, a wiry Russian who now represents Kazakhstan internationally.

Where Dancevic won a Challenger event on clay in Kosice, Slovakia, two weeks ago and then got through two rounds of Wimbledon qualifying immediately following that, before getting in as a lucky loser, Kukushkin has hardly been burning up the tour the past few months.

After beating Vasek Pospisil 6-0, 6-2 in Indian Wells at one of the low points in the Canadian Davis Cupper’s trials with a back issue, Kukushkin proceeded to lose eight first-round matches in a row.

He did go 2-3 during the Rome, Nice and Roland Garros stretch, but lost both of his 2014 pre-Wimbledon matches on grass – to Denis Istomin at Queen’s Club and to Radek Stepanek in Eastbourne.

Kukushkin defeated veteran Israeli, No. 101-ranked Dudi Sela, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday, but he had wraps on both knees.

Dancevic is a naturally good grass-court player. His strong serve, ability to play well at the net and general all-round talent help him handle the quick-twitch improvisation that is useful on grass.

His best result at Wimbledon was defeating world No. 7 David Nalbandian in the first round in 2008, before an oblique injury diminished him in his second-round loss to Bobby Reynolds.

So Dancevic is an unpredictable quantity at Wimbledon. But including qualifying, he is 11-8 in eight visits to Wimbledon, and he was also runner-up at the 2009 Eastbourne ATP grass-court event.

He has played Kukushkin once before, losing to the Kazakh 6-3, 7-5 at Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2012.

Their match is on Court 10 starting at 11:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. EDT.) on Thursday.

“I just tried to play relaxed and just go for it,” Dancevic said after his win over Karlovic on Tuesday. “I was doing that the whole match – and I’m really happy I got through, really happy.”

There could be more happiness in the near future for Dancevic. But looming in the third round as a likely opponent is a chap named Rafael Nadal.



Mauricio Paiz

Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic, winners of the Wimbledon doubles title in 2008 and 2009, got off on the right foot this year. The No. 3 seeds won their opener 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-4 over Paolo Lorenzi and Andreas Seppi of Italy on Wednesday.

The other Canadians in action were not so fortunate.

Eugenie Bouchard and British partner Heather Watson were beaten 6-4, 7-6(3) by sixth seeds Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua and Sharon Fichman and Donna Vekic of Croatia lost 6-1, 6-2 to Kimiko Date Krumm and Barbora Strycova Zahlavova.

In another women’s first round action, Gabriela Dabrowski and her partner Alicja Rosolska of Poland (above before the tournament started) were beaten 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 by 13th seeds Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic and Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands.  



The spectators of the All England Club – they aren’t called ‘patrons’ as at the Augusta National golf course – receive all kinds of advice and warnings from the video screens at various spots around the grounds.

The one above has actually been applicable with the mainly sunny weather that has graced Wimbledon over the first three days.