No doubt Genie Bouchard and her army of fans are thrilled she and partner Olga Danilovic have reached the Lyon doubles final.
And, of course, it is great news.
They made it tight: up 7-1 in the match tiebreak, opponents Makoto Ninomiya and Renata Voracova got it back on serve at 7-8 before the Canada/Serb team won three straight points to finish it off.
They will face No. 1 seeds Arantxa Rus and Viktoria Kuzmova in the final on Sunday.
But big picture, it’s actually a setback.
Because the effort seriously compromises Bouchard’s attempt to maximize a singles wild card given to her by the organizers of next week’s Guadalajara WTA Tour event.
Cross the globe – and no practice time
The 24 hours that will follow the Lyon doubles final will be a whirlwind of travel and logistics.
It’s far from just being a Bouchard issue. It’s a great example of what professional players have to navigate in these pandemic times.
In reality, the only reason Bouchard will even be able to play in Guadalajara at all – assuming she can get there – is because the testing rules are a lot more lax at the WTA 250 level. The other factor is that Mexico is also very lax on entry rules, despite its ongoing struggle against the COVID-19 virus.
A long journey, with tight connections (updated)
The quickest way the Canadian can get from Lyon to Guadalajara (assuming, of course, she doesn’t rent a private jet, lol) is an 18-hour itinerary with two stops if she could only get out Monday.
As it turns out, Bouchard ended up getting out of Lyon and as far as Frankfurt Sunday night.
Then, the challenge is that she could not take a flight that connects in the U.S., because at this point in the pandemic non U.S. citizens or residents (as far as we know, she still has Bahamas residency) coming from France of Germany cannot enter the country.
Of course, if Bouchard has recently changed her legal residency, she would have more options.
If she can go through the U.S. there are a number of options that would get her into Guadalajara right after dinner.
Luckily, testing has loopholes in Guadalajara
The next thing is the COVID-19 testing.
And there, Bouchard gets a break because of the location and the level of the Guadalajara event.
Given she would not arrive at the tournament hotel until late Monday, it’s unlikely there will be staff there to administer a PCR test. That pushes it back to Tuesday morning. Maybe they’ll wait.
And Bouchard will have to play her first round on Tuesday at the latest. She won’t be seeded, but the tournament is a full 32 draw and doesn’t have byes for seeds anyway.
And it’s a Saturday final, so there’s no wiggle room at all for first-round matches.
But the looser rules in Guadalajara offer an opening. Upon “tournament physician approval” (which will surely be rubber-stamped), Bouchard doesn’t have to quarantine in her hotel room or be barred from practicing or competing pending the results of her COVID test.
That’s not how it works at most of the tournament, so that’s a stroke of luck.
If she had to wait, it might be too late by the time the results did come back.
Major changes to playing conditions
The final thing, beyond the long travel and the seven-hour time difference to get over – not a piece of cake – is the massive change in playing conditions.
Going from indoors to outdoors is already a major change.
Going from indoor regulated temperatures in a winter country to a forecasted … 31C in Guadalajara Tuesday is a shock to the system.
And then there is the altitude.
The tournament site sits at 5,500 feet of altitude. For anyone who’s ever played tennis, this is a lot.
The ball just flies, even with the Wilson US Open high altitude balls that are used there.
(Notably the Bogotá tournament next month, where there is an additional 3,000 feet of altitude, plans to use regular “Yonex 2” tennis balls)
High-altitude balls are about 6 per cent larger in diameter than regular balls, and less pressurized. And they’re like rocks.
The other adjustment is that with the thinner air, you run out of oxygen a lot more quickly.
Not much time to adjust
Bouchard has almost no experience at altitude, and certainly not with the high altitude balls. She played two qualifying matches in Bogotá all the way back in 2013. That’s basically it.
At best, the Canadian will have one practice, the day of her first-round match. Her opponent could be a much-higher ranked player who has been there for several days of practice, or a qualifier who already has the experience of two matches under her belt.
There is also the risk of injury, when you have to jump right into the competitive fire exhausted from a long trip, and not having been able to stretch much, practice or get any treatment.
A major challenge in Guadajalara
To sum up, the conditions are less than ideal for the Canadian as she tries to make a move in singles.
Making a doubles final is nice. Her doubles ranking will go from No. 824 to about No. 354 with the final, to about No. 270 with the win. This is not career-changing in the least.
Plus, it’s not why she’s out there playing. It doesn’t do a single thing for her singles ranking.
The argument that it will “help her confidence” doesn’t really hold up.
Bouchard has had doubles success before through her struggles in recent years. And it hasn’t really made a dent. It’s a completely different game.
The opportunities to play singles at the WTA level have been rare in recent months for Bouchard, who has needed wild cards (the Guadalajara wild card is the 45th of her career).
So there is a lot of pressure to maximize when she does get the opportunity.
Playing opportunities extremely rare
It didn’t happen for her in Lyon, where she lost in the first round of singles to Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
She is still six out of making the qualifying at the WTA tournament in Monterrey the following week.
And she is still 17 out of making the qualifying at the Miami Open; Bouchard has even entered a $25,000 ITF on red clay in … Argentina that week. She’s not alone there. More than a dozen top-200 WTA players have signed up for this entry-level tournament.
It is literally the only other option on the planet beyond the lowly $15K events in the usual “Futures factory” locations like Sharm el Sheikh, Antalya and Monastir.
That’s how tough the opportunities are to come by these days.
All she can do is try to get to Mexico, adjust as quickly as she can, and hope for a little good fortune – and that the jet lag doesn’t kick in for a few days.
(Editor’s note: Please don’t forget to click on an ad or two as you read this post. Open Court ad revenue is growing steadily – and it makes all the difference in terms of taking on the travel costs of going to tournaments. Whenever we can get to them these days. Thanks for reading!)