October 22, 2021

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Guadalajara, Monterrey offer Bouchard opportunity to make a move

Monterrey

Bouchard blows a kiss to the camera after her quarterfinal victory (Screenshot: WTAtv)

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Despite the incredibly challenging conditions in the 48 hours before Genie Bouchard played her first-round match in Guadalajara, the 27-year-old Canadian has won three matches and is in Friday’s singles semifinal.

There, she will face qualifier Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy.

The three matches have resulted in a jump of about 12 spots in the WTA Tour rankings from her current No. 144. But if she can continue her winning ways, there is great opportunity in Mexico.

A win Friday would put her at about No. 116. If she managed to win the tournament – her second career WTA title and her first in nearly seven years – she would find herself just outside the top 100.

Getting back into the top 100 for the first time since July 2019 – a year ago this week, she was at a rock-bottom No. 332 – would not only be a great salve for her tennis soul.

That would be enough to get her into the main draws at Roland Garros and Wimbledon without having to get through the qualifying. That has proven a stumbling block in recent years, most recently in Doha in January before the Australian Open.

Getting opportunities in the bigger events has generally been a game changer for the Canadian. Gifted a wild card into Roland Garros last fall, Bouchard got a good draw and was able to get to the third round, where she lost to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.

Monterrey next? Could happen

But first things first.

Bouchard had already been given a wild card for the qualifying at next week’s tournament in Monterrey. But with some withdrawals in the last few days, the Canadian is now in on her own. At any rate, as of Friday morning, there were still four empty slots available in the qualifying draw. So she would have made it regardless.

The Monterrey qualifying begins Saturday. So what that means is that Bouchard can win Friday night, she is likely to qualify for the one special-exempt spot – in the main draw.

Her Friday opponent, Cocciaretto, would get priority in theory. Because she’s ranked higher. But if the Italian loses, the rules appear to indicate the Italian could then make it to Monterrey in time to play the qualifying.

So Bouchard would be in.

Three consecutive wins

Friday night was the first time all week there were any media requests for Bouchard, despite the fairly crazy journey she underwent to get there and the public profile she enjoys that far outstrips her current ranking.

The people on the Zoom call were, natch, all men.

“I’m super proud of myself because the turnaround was crazy. I’ve never had to land the night before a first round main draw match. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. From a different continent, and indoors to outdoors, different conditions, the seven-hour time zone difference. It was the craziest thing. I told myself I’ll just try my best and see what happens,” Bouchard said on the late-night Zoom call, in response to a question from American tennis blogger Michael Dickens.

“I didn’t really have time to think. So I just kind of hit the ground running. My first match was really, really tough just getting used to the conditions and jet lag. I’ve just been waking up every day and playing a match, and here I am.”

(We’d link to Dickens’ post, but it doesn’t appear he’s written anything about it).

The fans are the thing

Monterrey
As in most places she goes, Bouchard has had good support in Guadalajara. But no fans will be allowed next week in Monterrey. (Screenshot: WTAtv)

Bouchard said that even with the limited attendance because of pandemic protocols, she hadn’t played before this many fans for more than a year – since Auckland in 2020.

“It’s just, like, so much more fun to play in front of. You remember, ‘Wow, yeah, this is, like, the point of doing what we do is playing in front of them’, and not feel like we’re playing a match in practice conditions,” she told Dickens.

They’ve been so fun, and into it. They seem to really appreciate tennis and know tennis. Those are always my favourite kinds of crowds to play in front of.”

Players struggling in Guadalajara

Bouchard’s opponents this week have played mostly excruciating tennis. They’re not alone; the quality of execution in the difficult conditions – especially on serve – has been a bit painful overall.

Monterrey
Heat, wind, altitude – all have conspired to produce mediocre tennis tennis in Guadalajara. Perhaps Bouchard’s extreme challenges in getting there have almost worked in her favour. (Screenshot: WTAtv)

In a nutshell, they’ve been playing as though they were the ones who crossed the world and had no time to adjust. Meanwhile, Bouchard has been playing fairly good tennis, especially given the circumstances.

“I felt like I played solid today (in a 6-4, 6-3 victory over American Caty McNally). Really tough conditions. There was wind, she was getting a lot of balls back. I just had to try to be smart, and find a way to win,” Bouchard said. “Even though I didn’t think I was playing that well. I’m happy that I was able to stay focused and stay strong mentally and pull it out.”

Open opportunity in Monterrey

As with many tournaments this year, next week’s Monterrey tournament has been hit with withdrawals.

It originally featured two top-20 players: No. 13 Victoria Azarenka and No. 16 Johanna Konta. But both are out, along with No. 30 Ons Jabeur.

Five of the original top six – plus Coco Gauff – are all out. The only one remaining is American Sloane Stephens. And Stephens withdrew from Guadalajara this week. So who knows where she is at right now.

Monterrey
It’s tough to put together promotional material for a smaller tournament in pandemic times

Nadia Podoroska was the No. 4 seed this week and slated (barring a last-minute wild card) to be No. 2 in Monterrey. The Argentina went out in straight sets to Cocciaretto in the second round this week.

Marie Bouzkova, the top seed remaining in Guadalajara, would be the No. 4 seed next week but has been playing with a big wrap on her left quad.

All of that means more hay to be made for the lower-ranked players. Including Bouchard, if she can play.

There will not, however, be spectators allowed on site as there are this week. And certainly Bouchard has been able to feed off the support she has received.

Social media, shutouts, bla bla bla

The rest of the fellows wanting face time with the Canadian on the Zoom Call didn’t have … much game.

One, from Argentina, asked her if she was really going to play the $25,000 ITF in Buenos Aires that she entered the week of March 22.

Bouchard said she wasn’t sure, that it was really a backup plan.

It would be a shocker if she did show up at a $25K, especially if she plays Monterrey next week and wins more matches.

Still 14 out of Miami

The Miami Open qualifying is the same week as that ITF, which is about the only other place on the planet where the women can even play that week.

But not many players are withdrawing – so far. And Bouchard finds herself, as of Friday, still 14 withdrawals away from even making the qualifying there based on her ranking at the deadline.

The same fellow also asked her about – wait for it – the things people say and write about her … on social media. Sigh.

Another fellow asked her if it was her first time in Guadalajara (Here’s a website where he could have checked). And then he offered a shutout and best wishes from a male Mexican ITF player about her age, whom she would have known a decade ago in her junior days.

Always impressed with the patience of players at these press conferences, whether in person, or via Zoom.

Bouchard’s match against Cocciaretto Friday will take place at 8 p.m. EST.