There has seldom been a more frequently asked question in the history of Canadian tennis than the one heard so often last week. It seems everyone wants to know what ails the 21-year-old Montrealer after surprising losses at her three most recent events in Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston.
Someone who reached a career-high of No. 5 last October and currently occupies the No. 7 spot in the WTA rankings, Genie Bouchard has lost three matches in a row to No. 85-ranked Lesia Tsurenko, a qualifier, in her third match in Indian Wells, and in opening round matches in Miami and Charleston to another qualifier, No. 113-ranked Tatjana Maria and then to No. 66-ranked Lauren Davis.
It’s pretty obvious that neither Bouchard nor her team know exactly what’s causing her current swoon so it’s presumptuous for any outside observer to think he or she can offer any definitive explanation.
But that doesn’t stop all kinds of speculation and ‘experts’ who think they know what’s happening with her. One is retired Australian player Rennae Stubbs who had the cheek to post the following tweet:
@rennaestubbs: @geniebouchard needs to work on so many things in her game to get that confidence back. Would love a month working on it with her ….
The current Bouchard conundrum has to be put in context and Stubbs knows little or nothing about that, or about what an experienced coach like Sam Sumyk has been attempting to do with his new player.
To start with, Bouchard, after disappointing tumbles to Tsurenko and Maria in Indian Wells and Miami, understandably wanted to get right back up on the bicycle and try to get it right in Charleston.
But even she admitted, after the 6-3, 6-1 loss to Davis, that it had probably been a mistake to take a wild card into the clay-court event.
“I wanted to play more matches,” she explained after her first-round loss. “That’s why I came here, but maybe I should take a week and just train and just kind of – or more time than that – just to practice. And take my time and not maybe rush so I’m really prepared next time I play a tournament.”
Arguably the most important factor in her current woes has been injuries. After reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with some solid Bouchard-like performances, she lost her opener to Mona Barthel in Antwerp in February and then pulled out of Dubai with an injured right forearm.
In Indian Wells, she suffered an abdominal strain in the second set of her 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4 loss to Tsurenko and then in Charleston she had an ankle brace on her right foot and a tape job on her left foot – neither had been there in Miami 10 days earlier when she lost 6-0, 7-6(4) to Maria.
“Well, I have struggled a little bit with that lately,” she admitted regarding the injury issues after losing in Charleston. “So everything is kind of just healing, but even if something doesn’t hurt anymore, you know, you’ve had that lack of training, you’ve had that lack of match play. You’ve had that lack of …just the feelings on the court are so off.
“So, I think that’s more where it’s at. Nothing is hurting, but it’s more about getting back into match play.”
Photo: Mauricio Paiz
With her popularity off the court, some people think that her outside activities have been a distraction. There was the meeting with Justin Bieber, and playing with her fellow-Canadian in a Will Ferrell charity event in La Quinta, California, before Indian Wells. Then, nearly a week after she lost in Miami, she was still there and was photographed playing tennis with Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover model Hannah Davis (above).
A more hardcore tennis criticism heard is that Bouchard does not have a ‘B-game’ to go to when things aren’t going well. Maybe the best response to that is that Maria Sharapova doesn’t have a B-game and she has managed to do pretty well. Bouchard’s biggest asset is her ultra-aggressive gamestyle. It’s what has taken her to the top of the rankings. The flip side is that when it’s not working, there may not be many options. But, basically, it’s so effective when she’s on that she has to keep going for it no matter what.
Before the 2015 season started, many suggested that she was destined to have a sophomore slump after her dramatic rise 12 months earlier. But at No. 7 in the final 2014 rankings, it wasn’t hard to imagine her moving even higher with sketchy performers like Ana Ivanovic (No. 5) and Agnieszka Radwanska (No. 6) ranked just ahead of her and Caroline Wozniacki (No. 8) ranked right behind.
Photo: Ben Solomon
Bouchard, listed at 5-foot-10 and 134 pounds, is still slight, leading to thoughts that she needs to add a little heft. But she has done just fine without any extra weight in the past so that theory can be rejected.
The most obvious change in Bouchard for the 2015 is that she has separated from last year’s coach (and someone she was associated with since she was 12 years old) Nick Saviano. She’s now working with Sumyk, a Frenchman who coached Victoria Azarenka to two Australian Open titles and the No. 1 ranking, as well as mentoring Vera Zvonareva when she was a top-10 player.
It was a little strange that Bouchard, not in the best of moods, did not call on Sumyk for an on-court coaching visit during her one-sided loss to Davis in Charleston. Surely that would have helped forge a bond in their working relationship and given each insight into the other at a time in a match when things weren’t rosy.
Following the loss, Bouchard said, “If there’s something I’m doing wrong or any of my team is doing wrong, we’re going to take time. I had a long talk with my coach. We’re going to look at everything and try to improve things for the next time.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Bouchard commented about Sumyk, “Maybe there’s an adjustment period. I had this memory of Tiger Woods, when he changes his stroke, he says it himself, ‘there’s going to be a slump before it gets better.’ It’s the same thing, it’s a big change. I was used to someone for a while, so I have to accept that it’s going to go down before it goes up. You have to keep working and working and know that there’s going to be light at the end of the tunnel.”
One of Sumyk’s tenets is that perfection is not possible. “I do expect big things,” Bouchard said. “But I’m going to try not to put as much pressure on myself as I think I did at the end of last year. And I realize that you can’t be perfect. That’s something Sam has been saying to me. And you will probably lose every week of the year…besides a couple of weeks hopefully. So I just need to realize that and make sure I learn – and always try to get better.”
Photo: Ben Solomon
Bouchard has decided to play Fed Cup this weekend against Romania (without Simona Halep) in Montreal at the Maurice Richard Arena. She was a perfect four for four in matches (Serbia and Slovakia) in February and April of last year in Montreal and Quebec City. Hometown crowd support might be just what she needs as she faces Romania’s singles players – to be chosen among No. 33 Irina-Camelia Begu, No. 61 Monica Niculescu and No. 69 Alexandra Dulgheru.
There’s no need for Bouchard to panic. She didn’t get to her current position in the game without being a class player. And things can change quickly. Madison Keys, the 20-year-old American who reached the Australian Open semi-finals in January where she injured left adductor, struggled when she returned to action in March. She lost her second match in Indian Wells and then dropped her opener in Miami 6-4, 6-2 to Sloane Stephens and dissolved into tears in her courtside chair late in the match. Two weeks later in Charleston on Sunday, she reached the final and lost a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 thriller to Angelique Kerber.
“I’m just going to keep working hard and wait until this low turns into a high, and really learn in the process to be patient,” Bouchard told The Guardian. “I know I won’t win every tournament. I think patience is really important for me because I’m not very patient.”
A year ago, Bouchard’s impatience was rewarded with memorable exploits at Wimbledon and the Australian and French Opens. Maybe this year it’ll be patience that’s the recipe for that same kind of success.
View of Monte Carlo
The tinkle of champagne glasses on the terrace and the gorgeous view out over the Mediterranean are staples of the annual ATP stop in Monte Carlo.
A Canadian actually won this event. Lorne Main, now 84, was the champion 61 years ago in 1954.
It has been a long time but another Canadian, Milos Raonic, has a chance this year and is seeded No. 4. He begins his tournament on Wednesday against Joao Sousa of Portugal. Raonic won their only previous meeting – 6-3, 6-3 – in Sousa’s homeland at Estoril on clay in 2011.
Looking past the No. 56-ranked Sousa, Raonic could play No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals and second-seeded Roger Federer in the semi-finals. Top seed Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Rafael Nadal, an eight-time winner, are on the opposite side of the draw.
In doubles, there’s an interesting second-round match-up as sixth seeds Daniel Nestor and Leander Paes – a flash and dash pairing if there ever was one – will face great pals Benoit Paire and Stan Wawrinka. It looked like Nestor might get a re-match with his most recent partner, Rohan Bopanna of India, but the Indian and his Romanian partner Florin Mergea were beaten by Paire and Wawrinka on Tuesday.
Raonic is also in the doubles partnering with the hapless Ernests Gulbis, who could only manage to win one game in his singles match on Monday against Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria. Raonic and Gulbis will face Spanish veterans Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco in their still as yet un-played first round match.
Spain’s glorious Top-10 history
When Carla Suarez Navarro reached the Miami Open final two weeks ago, she became yet another Spaniard to reach the top-10 in either the women’s or men’s rankings over the past four decades. Here’s a look at all those players.
Andy’s ‘kilted’ nuptials
Andy Murray and longtime girlfriend Kim Sears tied the knot in Dunblane, Scotland, last Saturday.
Along with his brother Jamie and father William, Andy sported the family tartan kilt – Murray Of Elibank Ancient.
Earlier on the day of his wedding, Murray posted the following emoji tweet:
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) April 11, 2015
NOTE: FED CUP BLOGS – We’ll be back with weekend Tebbutt Tuesday blogs starting Friday from the Canada – Romania Playoff round in Montreal.