Tennis Canada chose Montreal to host the upcoming Fed Cup relegation tie against Kazakhstan, hoping the presence of hometown star Eugenie Bouchard would help create interest and drive ticket sales.
But Tennis.Life has learned that Bouchard will not be taking part in the tie, which will be played April 22-23.
It has been two years since the 23-year-old represented her country in Fed Cup. The last time produced this viral moment:
Relegated to the zonal competition for 2017, a young, inexperienced Canadian team went down to Mexico without Bouchard in early February. They managed to get through a challenging week earn the opportunity to play this playoff tie. The winner will be promoted to World Group II for 2018.
Against Kazakhstan, which boasts a pair of top-50 players in old Bouchard junior rival Yulia Putintseva and veteran Yaroslava Shvedova, Canada needs more.
Scheduling conflicts a concern for Bouchard
Bouchard had long committed to the Istanbul WTA Tour event to kick off her clay-court swing the last week of April. No doubt there was a nice appearance fee involved as well. But it takes place the week immediately after the Fed Cup tie.
The Canadian would have to play on a fast indoor court over the weekend and take a 10-hour red-eye flight to Istanbul on Sunday night. After arriving there late Monday afternoon, she would have 24 hours, at best, to transition to outdoor clay-court tennis.
Bouchard tried this once in 2014. After leading Canada to victory over Serbia in Montreal, Bouchard took a red-eye to the outdoor tournament in Doha, UAE. She lost American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the in the first round. Later that week, she lost in the qualifying at another big tournament in Dubai.
Bouchard said then that she wouldn’t make that scheduling decision again. The following year, she was practicing in Montreal with then-new coach Sam Sumyk while her Fed Cup teammates were losing to the Czech Republic 150 miles down the road in Quebec City. She then flew to Europe as a late entrant in the now-defunct WTA Tour stop in Antwerp, Belgium the following week.
Bouchard was a faithful participant during the early years of her career. But life and career have intervened since – much to the dismay of her Canadian fans. She did made a last-minute decision to represent Canada at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last summer.
Social media will be quick to react, as usual
The 23-year-old is sure to get heat once again for the decision. In the wake of a disconsolate first-round loss to No. 98-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormó of Spain Monday night at the WTA tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, even more so.
If playing matches in her hometown before a large crowd of adoring fans might somehow kickstart a revival, it might be a good call. Bouchard is on a five-match losing streak going back to January, But her homecomings have often been fraught with drama.
She last played on home turf at the WTA Tour event in Quebec City last September. Bouchard lost to No. 162-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia in the second round and heard the boo-birds.
If she struggled in her hometown and was jeered, as fragile as her confidence is at this point, it would be a big blow. In addition to the other considerations, it would be a big risk to take.
The French-language website TVA Sports picked up this news Tuesday afternoon, adding comment from Tennis Canada spokesperson Valérie Tétreault that they were still awaiting the official nominations so couldn’t officially confirm or deny, although they were aware of Bouchard’s participation in the Istanbul event immediately after and the potential conflict that could cause.