May 25, 2024

Open Court


Coachless Bouchard skips Wuhan

The season to forget hasn’t gotten any better for Canadian Genie Bouchard.

She already has withdrawn from the tournaments in Quebec City last week and Seoul, Korea this week. The official reason is a nasty virus she caught in New York.

Now, Bouchard has withdrawn from the qualifying for the Premier tournament in Wuhan, China next week.

To add insult to injury, the 23-year-old also has lost her coach.

Tennis.Life has learned that Thomas Högstedt has left Team Bouchard. The Swede worked with Bouchard for the first three months of 2016 and then returned for 2017. 

We were told that Högstedt had already signed on with Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.

Maya Kurilova, who represents the Russian Ekaterina Makarova, confirmed to that she contacted Högstedt after the US Open about his availability to trial with Makarova on the Asian swing. Kurilova added that Makarova hadn’t made a decision yet; still choosing from “among a few candidates”. Makarova had a short-term agreement with British coach Nigel Sears through the North American hard-court season. 

(Update, Oct. 2: Makarova did indeed go with Högstedt. The WTA Tour Insider Twitter reports Högstedt is in Beijing with her).

Bouchard’s 2017 season hasn’t gone better than 2016. And the accumulated losing can’t be good for the psyche.

It appeared she might be turning a corner when she defeated Maria Sharapova and then-No. 1 Angelique Kerber, back to back, in Madrid in early May. There was extra motivation against Sharapova, given Bouchard’s public stand against doping in general and Sharapova, once her idol, in particular.

She then was a late withdrawal from the qualifying in Rome, a momentum-killer even if the back-to-back victories in Madrid likely were tough physically.

Then, on a practice court in Nürnberg (the site of her only WTA Tour title to date back in 2014), a rolled ankle compromised the French Open

By the time Wimbledon rolled around, the self-imposed pressure of making a run at the tournament where she reached the final just three years before – her favorite tournament – appeared to do her in.

After winning the first set 6-1, Bouchard imploded and lost in three sets to Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain in the first round.

Déjà vu all over again

The pattern has repeated itself over and over. Work hard on the practice court, hit the ball well. And then, once on the match court, the emotions, the lack of confidence, take over.

It has been a rough summer, with one highlight: Bouchard and Sloane Stephens reached the doubles final at the Citi Open in D.C.

It’s a result that did a whole lot more for Stephens’ momentum, as subsequent events proved.

To sum up, the last time Bouchard put together back-to-back victories in singles was in that Madrid tournament, against those two marquee players.

Since then, she has gone 3-8 with first-round losses at Wimbledon, at home in Canada, and on Arthur Ashe Stadium against the No. 93 player in the world.

Bouchard’s ranking was at No. 52 after the Madrid tournament. As of Monday, she was down to No. 87.  

A year ago at this time, she was ranked No. 49.

Katerina Siniakova beat her in the first round of the US Open, and then Bouchard lost an emotional second-round match to Alla Kudryavtseva in Quebec City.

Bouchard struggled against Croatia’s Donna Vekic – and the home pressure in Canada – at the Rogers Cup in August.

To play, or not to play?

After that, she skipped the Asian swing as well. Bouchard played just two matches the remainder of the 2016 season, fulfilling commitments in Linz, Austria and Luxembourg but losing in the first round at both.

So there was an opportunity to make up some ground in the last part of 2017.

But given the current state of things, there’s no guarantee she would start winning. More losses would just worsen the slump, the effects of which clearly are cumulative and just as clearly taking a toll.

Conversely, with no points to defend the rest of the season, all Bouchard would be giving up by skipping the swing once again would be some appearance money. Her plummeting ranking wouldn’t take a hit.

Back in May, she was the first player announced for the field in Luxembourg, which takes place the week of Oct. 16. She is currently not in the main draw by virtue of her ranking. But she’s next in.

Bouchard didn’t enter the WTA tournament the previous week in Linz, Austria, opting for Hong Kong instead. (The Hong Kong media announced her appearance only Tuesday, as the entry list was revealed).

Have we seen the last of her in 2017? Or will she try to get back on court and finish on a positive note?

That’s the dilemma the embattled Bouchard is wrestling with at the moment. It’s hard to say what the right decision is.

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