September 23, 2023

Open Court


One and done for Bouchard in Beijing

It’s a rather familiar story for Genie Bouchard these days – a first-round exit.

The 23-year-old Canadian was beaten by Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 6-4, 6-3 Sunday at the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing, China.

So before the week even sets in, she’s already out, in her debut on the fall Asian swing.

Since her second-round loss to Anastasija Sevastova at the French Open, Bouchard has played eight tournaments. She has won two matches.

The matchup was promising from a positive-history standpoint for the struggling Canadian. She came in 2-0 head-to-head against the 28-year-old Slovak.

The first meeting came at the same tournament four years ago when their rankings were nearly identical: Bouchard was at No. 36 and out of the qualifying; Rybarikova was one spot better at No. 35. Bouchard won 6-4, 6-1.

Last year at Wimbledon, Bouchard again defeated Rybarikova in straight sets in a first-round match that began on Court 12, and was moved under the Centre Court roof the next day.

Since then, Rybarikova had been out injured. She then crawled her way back up the rankings and reached the Wimbledon semifinals this year. At No. 28, she is one off a career-best ranking reached after the US Open.

Mostly mental for Bouchard

Bouchard might well have been asking herself what she was doing in Beijing. At times, she was dug in; other times, she looked like she wanted to be anywhere else. (Screenshot: WTA TV)

Bouchard’s ball striking was just fine. The velocity on the serve was fine.

And if Bouchard still doesn’t have a clear vision of what to do once she heads to the net, she at least was heading there on the right shots.

But the desire level fluctuated. And the errors came on the most routine shots – rally balls, open courts. The match was somewhat close in large part because Rybarikova made plenty of errors of her own.

Bouchard fought back from service breaks with breaks of her own. But she couldn’t do it at the end of the first set.

It was clearly a deflating moment. She began the first game of the second set with a double fault, ended that game with another double fault, and chased after it the rest of the way.

Pep talk, to no avail

Diego Ayala, a Florida-based coach who was with Bouchard at the Australian Open in 2015 and knew her from their days at the Saviano Academy when Bouchard was a teenager, is along for the three-tournament swing that will end the Canadian’s season.

Diego Ayala tried to pump Bouchard up. But it was for naught. (Screenshot: WTA TV)

A chill customer, Ayala gave her some good tactical advice on his first visit to the court, at 3-4 in the first set.

Bouchard shrugged her shoulders.

She appeared a little more receptive on his second trip, at 3-4 in the second set. Ayala tried the pep-talk route this time.

“Don’t worry about what it feels like, just keep digging. You’ve got to scrap, you’ve got to kick, you’ve got to fight,” he said. “You can do a little bit better job with the positive energy. Show her that you’re here a little bit more. Celebrate your good positive stuff.”

Bouchard won just two points the rest of the way. She finished it off with … a double fault.

Rybarikova didn’t play her best match of the year. Not even close. But on this day, it was more than enough to beat Bouchard for the first time. (Screenshot: WTA TV)

In a twist of fate, the Canadian’s ranking will actually rise, despite the early exit.

She didn’t play the Asian swing a year ago. And a few players with points to defend – Kateryna Kozlova, Francesca Schiavone and Alison Van Uytvanck among them – didn’t defend theirs, aren’t in the Beijing draw, and dropped below her.

From her current No. 85, Bouchard could move up as many as six spots, although there are still a couple of players who could pass her.

She is entered in the International-level event in Hong Kong next week. And then Luxembourg to finish out a very tough season.

(All screenshots from the WTAtv stream)

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