Genie Bouchard’s woes of late have created an even greater sense of mystery, and maybe even anticipation, about her matches than when she was blithely running through opponents while compiling a Tour-best 19 wins in Grand Slam events last year.

When she steps on Court Suzanne Lenglen late on Tuesday for her first Grand Slam appearance since her spring swoon – one match win out of eight played since the second round of Indian Wells in March – against No. 44-ranked Kristina Mladenovic, no one has any idea of whether it will be good Genie or bad Genie.

It was bad Genie during six losses in a row from Indian Wells in March through Madrid in May. But a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 34-ranked Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan and a narrow 6-7(2), 7-5, 7-6(7) loss to No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro two weeks ago in Rome may have her back on the right track.

In a rare interview in Paris, she told TSN last week that she believes she is “turning it around.”

Eugenie Bouchard

On Saturday, she practiced with Kaia Kanepi and the powerful 6-foot, 29-year-old Estonian definitely had the better of it – blasting winners all over the place while mixing in a few aces. It was no fun for Bouchard and she certainly showed some frustration – and had frequent conversations with coach Sam Sumyk.

When she walked off after the workout with Kanepi on Court 3, she (below) crossed behind as Carla Suarez Navarro began her practice with Simona Halep.

Eugenie Bouchard

On Sunday, Bouchard had another session with Andrea Petkovic and seemed to continue to come out second best in the rallies. At the end of the allotted one-hour practice there was a cross-over as Grigor Dimitrov and Andy Murray came onto Court 12 for their hour. In the picture below Bouchard can be seen talking to Dimitrov while Murray is top left and Petkovic (bare back upper right) is on the upper right.

Eugenie Bouchard Grigor Dimitrov Andy Murray

Performances in practice are often misleading. Milos Raonic plays barely average tennis in the days leading up to a Davis Cup tie and then always seems to be able to step up a gear or two as soon as the bell rings and the singles matches start on the Friday.

Bouchard prevailed in her only previous match with Mladenovic, 6-3, 6-2 in the 2013 Quebec City quarter-finals, but the 22-year-old 6-foot Frenchwoman goes into the match after reaching the final of the WTA event in Strasbourg, France, last Saturday – beaten 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Samantha Stosur.

There’s a bit of an asterisk about her week because she advanced in her quarter-final match on a walkover from Madison Keys and then won her semifinal 6-3, 1-2 RET when her compatriot Virginie Razzano had to stop. In the first two rounds she beat No. 94 Pauline Parmentier and No. 46 Alison Riske.

Mladenovic, so the scuttlebutt goes, has a pretty high opinion of her tennis abilities and has certainly shown that she can handle the big hitting of men when she plays mixed doubles alongside Daniel Nestor.

And where the home ground and the pressure of playing in 14,911-seat Court Philippe Chatrier got to her fellow-Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia on Sunday in her loss to Donna Vekic, Mladenovic is likely to revel in being back in 10,056-seat Suzanne Lenglen, especially because she defeated world No. 2 (and 2011 champion) Li Na 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 there in the opening round a year ago. That turned out to be the second-last tournament appearance of Li’s career. 

Eugenie Bouchard

On paper, with a No. 6 ranking Bouchard should be favoured against Mladenovic, ranked No. 44, but maybe a better indicator of their current form and their positions in the WTA hierarchy would be where they stand in the Road To Singapore (race), which is based only on results posted in 2015. Bouchard is in 34th place with a 7-9 record so far for the year while Mladenovic is two places ahead of her at No. 32 and is 18-15 year-to-date in the win/loss column.

Both players play a take-no-prisoners, aggressive-hitting style of tennis and neither will get far if they’re defensive and passive. It would be nice to think that the winner will be the one who hits the most winners and dominates her opponent, but more likely it will be the one who is able to make fewer unforced errors in a match that is high-stakes for each of them – Bouchard because she has struggled but hopes the Grand Slam stage will revive positive sensations and Mladenovic because she’s playing her seventh (3-6) Roland Garros and surely feels it’s time to make a move and get further than the third round she achieved a year ago.

Eugenie Bouchard

The French sporting daily L’Equipe described the match-up as follows: “Alléchant [enticing] first round Mladenovic (who is going well these days) – Bouchard (who has Gulbis-like stats these days).”

That may be a little harsh but it remains Bouchard and Ernests Gulbis – each a Roland Garros semifinalist 12 months ago – have endured periods of painfully inept play this year. Gulbis had been 2-12 for 2015 until a first round 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(3) win on Sunday over qualifier Igor Sijsling. Though his current ranking is No. 29, his position in the 2015 Race is a humble No. 163.

But he was hampered early in the year by a shoulder issue that restricted his practice time. Similarly, Bouchard, who reached the quarter-finals of her first tournament of 2015, the Australian Open (losing to Maria Sharapova), has since had forearm, abdominal and ankle problems.

Following his victory over Sijsling on Sunday, an upbeat Gulbis was asked about his and Bouchard’s troubles in 2015, and about the way out of them.

“I think the less thoughts you put into it the better,” the 26-year-old Latvian said. “If you start to think over and over again, over analyzing, at least for me it’s not good. And everybody is very different. As I told last year here (at Roland Garros) – I told it (for) I think the first time – my happiness really comes from success. I haven’t had success for a while. So my happiness level is not very high. And I didn’t have a lot of things outside of the court which could fulfill my level of happiness, so of course I feel – I don’t want to use any words like depression or any of this kind of stuff. I don’t understand depression. I’m always in a decent mood. But the level of happiness I wish was bigger. This I can get through winning. How I can get wins is just basically putting my base work in to get through it and get through it in practice. You cannot – me or like Bouchard – I think we reached a certain level that we can always get back to it. It’s not like we started to play much worse. I think practice makes perfect. Practice is the only answer.”

Bouchard has been putting in the practice, an anxious Canadian public awaits to see if that’s the answer.  

Is anything Pospisil?

Vasek Pospisil

Vasek Pospisil has made it very clear he doesn’t have high expectations coming into his French Open first-round meeting with Joao Sousa of Portugal on Tuesday, first up at 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET in Canada) on Court 3.

Pospisil suffered a second degree ankle sprain and a bone bruise when he came down on Jack Sock’s foot during a quarter-final doubles match in Madrid three weeks ago.

Rest and rehab have enabled him to be ready for Roland Garros but, though he arrived in Paris on Thursday, the first time he actually played points in practice was on Saturday (above) against Jarkko Nieminen.

Sousa, who memorably defeated Frank Dancevic 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(2) in the first round of the US Open last year, is a solid clay-court player. His record on European clay this year (including qualifying) is 9-6. Pospisil is 0-2.

While Sousa and Pospisil were No. 50 and No. 51 in the rankings respectively last week, that gap widened with Monday’s new rankings and Sousa, a 7-6(4), 6-4 runner-up to Thomaz Bellucci in the Geneva ATP final on Saturday, is up to No. 44 while Pospisil dropped two spots to No. 53.

So, the Sousa match-up would be tough for Pospisil at the best of times. Now, as he comes out of the worst of times, it’s a huge ask for him to be expected to compete with the 26-year-old Portuguese.

Vasek Pospisil

Doubles are much more likely where he will excel at Roland Garros ’15. He and partner Jack Sock are the second seeds (the venerable Daniel Nestor and partner Leander Paes are No. 10) and their opening round match is against Victor Estrella Burgos of Dominican Republic and the other Joao Souza – this one from Brazil.

If they advance, the reigning Wimbledon champions would seem to have a decent chance to get through their subsequent few rounds. 

Le quiz Rafa

Rafa Nadal

One of the pleasures of covering Roland Garros is reading the French sports daily L’Equipe.

For example, who knew, even someone fairly fluent in the language of Moliere and Yannick Noah, that “nonuple” (nine-times) is the French word that describes the number of times Rafael Nadal has won Roland Garros.

In a more amusing vein, in Saturday’s L’Equipe Magazine there was a quiz on Nadal and one of the questions was – is he about to do it in the picture above? – “on average, how many times does he pull on his shorts per set – 13, 80 or 250?” (Answer is below here).

Some other fun questions were:

  1. “In 10 participations, who has been his favourite victim at Roland Garros – David Ferrer, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer?” Answer: Djokovic – 6 times.
  2. “After his loss in 2009 against Soderling, who said, “there’s only one class of fans worse than the French, and that’s the Parisians – John McEnroe, Toni Nadal or Felipe Gonzalez?” Answer: Toni Nadal.
  3. “Nadal’s longest match lasted 4 hours and 53 minutes – who was it against – Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling or Paul-Henri Mathieu?” Answer: Mathieu – 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round in 2006.
  4. “At the change-overs, he always puts his water bottle – to left of his chair, between his feet or at the right of his bag?” Answer: Between his feet.

NOW – the answer to the “average pulls on his shorts per set” question: 80.        

The universal tennis language

Roger Federer

Ya gotta love this tweet from @atodotennis about Roger Federer (above with Pablo Cuevas), no matter what language you speak:

The selfie soft touch

Andrea Petkovic

After her practice session with Genie Bouchard on Sunday, Andrea Petkovic was gently swarmed by people outside Court 12. She posed for at least 20 selfies – including the one above for an obviously thrilled fan.