July 22, 2024

Open Court


UPDATED: Good news on the Genie Bouchard comeback front: a tournament entry (at least for awhile)

Bouchard at Roland Garros in 2020. Her first official tournament entry is in the qualifying for the 2022 event next month.

Ever since Canadian star Genie Bouchard underwent shoulder surgery last June, her fans have been eagerly awaiting her return to pro tennis.

But other than a couple of one-set exhibition efforts, she hasn’t played. And she’s given no indication of when she’s going to return.

Until a few weeks ago

Open Court has learned that Bouchard is finally entered in a tournament. And it’s a major one.

With her protected ranking of No. 118, the Miami resident has entered the qualifying for Roland Garros. The qualifying takes place the week of May 16.

(Bouchard is not on the entry list as an alternate for the singles draw).

UPDATE, May 4: Bouchard withdrew from RG qualifying. Which wasn’t really a shock. And she hadn’t entered anything else. So the mystery continues, with no real indication from the lady herself as to what she’s up to and what her plans are as her fans eagerly await … anything.

That’s no guarantee she will actually play. But it is a positive sign to her fans that she’s heading in that direction.

Bouchard isn’t entered in anything else, though – not even any of the WTA 125 tournaments in Europe just prior to Roland Garros.

A glimmer of hope in Palm Harbor

The Canadian’s fans were on tenterhooks last Monday waiting for the draw for the ITF tournament in Palm Harbor, Fla. to be released.

The 28-year-old Canadian, out since March 2021, was announced as a wild card into the $100,000 event.

Bouchard was the first player announced for the tournament, and they put her on the promotional material.

She was on the official entry list.

But there had never been any confirmation from the player herself. And the weekend before the tournament began, when you’d expect she’d have headed across state to the site to familiarize herself, get used to being at a tournament again and practice, she was still in Miami.

And then, the draw was released. But Bouchard wasn’t on it.

Bouchard spent the week in New York City and at a New Balance facility opening in Boston, where no doubt her appearance as a sponsored athlete was finalized well in advance.

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No other tournament entries so far

Bouchard has never been one to enter tournaments well in advance.

But so far, she’s not entered in anything other than the Roland Garros qualifying.

She is not playing the $60K ITF in Charlottesville, Va. this week, nor is she entered in the $100K ITFs in Charleston, S.C. and Bonita Springs, Fla. the next few weeks. The Har-Tru isn’t red clay, but it’s at least a reasonable facsimile.

Nor is she entered in any of the higher-end ITF clay-court events in Europe through to the week before the Roland Garros qualifying (although two days remain before the deadlines for the tournaments the week of May 9.

Of course, Bouchard could request a wild card at any of those tournaments, a request that would likely be granted given her still-high profile.

Training at the Saviano Academy

For the last few months, Bouchard has done some training at the Saviano Academy, something that came to a surprise to many as their history in several coaching stints didn’t end particularly well.

But we’re told that Tennis Canada head of women’s tennis Sylvain Bruneau reached out to Saviano, and he agreed.

Saviano and Bouchard at Roland Garros in 2014, where she made the semifinals

But despite the toll a year of shoulder woes would take on the technique, and being out another year, Bouchard hasn’t committed to hiring a full-time coach to get her back on the right path.

Shoulder surgery is ROUGH

The truth about Bouchard’s comeback is that it is a very, very steep slope.

For whatever reason, shoulder surgery hasn’t proven to be a solution for the majority of players who have undergone it.

That’s the reason most of them spent up to a year trying preventative treatment, rehab – anything to avoid surgery. And then, most often, they have to bite the bullet and get it done.

That said, Open Court doesn’t even play an orthopedic surgeon on the Internet; all shoulder surgeries are different. Bouchard’s was to repair a tear in her subscapularis.

But in nearly all cases, the post-surgery rehab is lengthy and arduous. And probably quite discouraging at times.

An example of that is Maria Sharapova, who tried to avoid it, went through several detours with inadequate diagnoses, had surgery, then battened down the hatches for months in Colorado rehabbing after surgery to repair two tears in her rotator cuff.

Sharapova pulled out of her third-round match against Ai Sugiyama at the 2008 Rogers Cup, had the surgery in October and was back at a tournament in Warsaw, Poland in late May, 2009.

But Sharapova she never came close to getting her once-powerful serve back – as everyone could witness. Her issues with consistency on the serve, partly due to having to completely change the motion, bedeviled her. She did win two more Grand Slam events by dint of pure stubbornness and determination.

Close to home, Quebecer Aleksandra Wozniak tried everything to avoid surgery. But in the end, she went under the knife in Sept. 2014 to tighten the joint capsule and undergo an acromioplasty – which involves shaving away part of the shoulder bone called the acromion.

Wozniak returned almost exactly a year later and played full seasons (mostly at the lower levels) in 2016 and 2017. But she never regained any power on her serve. Worse still, she simply wasn’t able to practice it except in very limited volume. And she likely underplayed the daily pain and recovery process.

Czech player Klara Koukalova even changed to a racquet 20 grams heavier – a major change, as she continued to try to play with a torn rotator cuff in 2015. She said the only real option was surgery and, at 33, that would be career-ending. She ended her career less than a year later at Wimbledon.

Puig headed to the comeback trail

One of Bouchard’s former junior rivals, Monica Puig (the 2016 Olympic gold medalist), has been off the Tour for the best part of 2 1/2 years, but is taking her first competitive steps as we speak.

Since Oct, 2019, Puig has played just three matches – first-round losses at the “Cincinnati”/US Open double in 2020, and at the fall edition of the US Open.

Puig had surgery to repair the ulnar nerve in her right elbow in Dec. 2019 – and then she had a second surgery in June 2021, to repair her rotator cuff and biceps tendon.

One success story: Ajla Tomljanovic

About the only success story we can think of is Australian Ajla Tomljanovic. But it took her a long time.

Tomljanovic had one of the biggest serves of that era – regularly serving in the 180s along with a precious few others at the time. But she struggled with shoulder issues for eight months before finally having surgery in March, 2016.

Per the Herald Sun, she was told from the get-go she’d be out for a year. And she had to sleep sitting up for two months.

Tomljanovic returned nearly a year later in Acapulco. As it happened, she was victorious on her return, upsetting No. 6 seed Bouchard in the first round. But she retired in the second round and struggled with shoulder pain on and off for the rest of a very tough season.

But by 2018, she seemed back in full swing and ended the season in the top 50 for the first time.

A long process requiring patience and dedication

Sharapova, Tomljanovic and Bouchard all went to the same surgeon: Dr. David Altchek in New York.

In short, the process is long, arduous and often unsuccessful.

What we’re hearing at the moment is that Bouchard’s shoulder “isn’t great”.

So the Canadian has a big job ahead of her. At 28, she’s neither young nor old in tennis terms. But a successful outcome would have her back playing top-level tennis again as she hits 30.

Entering a tournament is at least a first, positive step.

Bouchard is at the Coachella music festival this week (Instagram)

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