June 25, 2024

Open Court


Hold on, Super Bowl: Bouchard wins

Genie Bouchard’s plans to attend Sunday’s Super Bowl with her Twitter date will, in a best-case scenario, be pre-empted by tennis.

The 23-year-old took a step towards that Tuesday at the Taiwan Open, advancing to the second round after opponent Zhu Lin of China retired with a back injury.

After a horrendous first set, Bouchard bounced back in the second and, after an early break of serve in the third, won the match 1-6, 7-5, 2-0 when Zhu stopped.

The Chinese player had a medical timeout to have her lower back worked on, and also had the trainer on during multiple changeovers to have it treated some more.

Bouchard will play Ana Bogdan of Romania in the second round on Thursday.

Super Bowl
Zhu had multiple treatments, but ended up pulling the plug early in the third set. (WTATV.com)

The Canadian had stayed on in Melbourne after being eliminated in the second round of singles by eventual finalist Simona Halep. There was a two-week gap before the Taiwan Open, which gave Bouchard a wild card.

Winning debut for coach Poole

The tournament marks the WTA Tour coaching debut of Robbye Poole, who does have coaching experience at the junior and college level but whose professional experience is limited to his 2 1/2-year stint as Serena Williams’s hitting partner.

He had just taken a job as assistant coach of the women’s team at Ole Miss, where he graduated a decade ago after a standout college playing career.

Poole had some useful advice – including pointing out an obvious fact that Bouchard hadn’t picked up on, that Zhu’s backhand side was stronger than her forehand side. He also dealt with choosing a tighter string tension, as the ball was flying off Bouchard’s rackets earlier in the match.

Bouchard needed assurance during a consult as she bemoaned the state of her play. (WTATV.com)

He also suggested she change the pace, use her still uncomfortable-looking slice and some high balls to throw off her opponent’s timing.

“I can’t ****ing play tennis”

Poole also had some words of encouragement as Bouchard bemoaned her play, whispering it during the coaching consult as both were more than aware that the conversation was miked.

(Despite the low tone, the F-bombs could clearly be heard).

“I just find I can’t ***ing play tennis. … I can’t ***ing play tennis,” she said. “How come I’ve been practicing so great, and I come on the court and do this?”

Bouchard offers concern at net after opponent Zhu Lin retires early in the third set of their first-round match in Taiwan (WTATV.com)

That’s one of the front-burner questions that has gone unanswered in recent years for Bouchard.

Not to single her out; there are a lot of players who don’t come close to duplicating their practice level in matches. There is, of course, no opponent on the practice court.

But the Canadian did cut down the errors and improve the body language in the second set. Meanwhile, her opponent went in the opposite direction, until she abruptly stopped play.

Sometimes a lucky break can create some momentum. And Bouchard certainly hasn’t had a lot of breaks during her extended rough patch.

Bogdan, ranked a career-high No. 89, upset No. 11 seed Kristina Mladenovic and posted a comeback win over Yulia Putintseva before losing in the third round of the Australian Open to Madison Keys. She upset No. 1 seed Shuai Peng in the first round in Taiwan, removing that obstacle from Bouchard’s path.

Super Bowl date in doubt

Earlier this month, Bouchard accepted an invitation to Sunday’s Super Bowl on Twitter from NFL Canada. And she quickly conscripted her Twitter date, John Goehrke, into joining her.

The two met when Bouchard accepted a bet from Goehrke during last year’s Super Bowl. And she made good on it. The two met up again in Florida during the off-season.


There was a scheduling conflict, though. She was already scheduled to play this event in Taiwan. And it’s a long trip from Taipei City to Minneapolis.

If Bouchard gets to the quarterfinals and loses, she could race to Minnesota in time to get there Saturday night. But if she goes on a run, she would have cancel her plans.

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