July 11, 2020

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Bouchard preps for 1st career RG qualies

PARIS – From the time Canadian Genie Bouchard made her Roland Garros debut back in 2013, she was in the main draw.

This year, with her ranking down to No. 167, she is in the qualifying for the first time. And she’s not even seeded.

Bouchard will face No. 13 seed Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia in the first round on Tuesday.

They are last up on Court No. 6, which is the court that is being streamed. So if you get Tennis Channel Plus, you might be able to watch it.

Jakupovic is a 27-year-old who is ranked No. 121 in singles, and No. 55 in doubles.

Her singles ranking is a career high. Her doubles ranking is one off a career high established last month. So she is playing the best tennis of her career, and reached the semifinals of the WTA Tour event on clay in Bogotá, Colombia last month.

Draw full of possibilities

There are no “easy wins’ for Bouchard these days. So to say that her draw is a cake walk would be to overstate the case, especially because the No. 7 qualifying seed, Mariana Duque-Mariño of Colombia, is a good clay-court player.

Bouchard and Duque-Mariño have met twice, eons ago when Bouchard was just starting out. The Canadian defeated her both times, both on clay, in the Acapulco qualifying, and also in Fed Cup.

Bouchard has played little tennis on Tour in recent months – just four matches since she reached the quarterfinals of the small WTA event in Taipei City after the Australian Open.

She won just one of those, a first-round qualifying match against American Allie Kiick in Miami during which her former coach Harold Solomon, with whom she had split just days before, was sitting in the opposing camp.

Here are some pics of Bouchard and Zhao in action.

The two other matches she did play, at Fed Cup in Montreal a month ago, loom larger in terms of her confidence.

Bouchard injured her left hand in her first match against Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine. And she was cramping up in her second match, against Lesia Tsurenko. But she managed to win both of them, a big confidence boost.

But she hasn’t played since.

The 24-year-old had entered a pair of $100,000 ITF events, in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France and Trnava, Slovakia the last two weeks. But an abdominal strain suffered in the warmup just before her first-round match in France resulted in her withdrawing from both

She has spent the last week or so training at the Mouratoglou Academy in France.

Pared-down Team Bouchard

Bouchard practiced with fellow Canadian Carol Zhao Monday at Parc Jean-Bouin, a practice facility just down the street from Roland Garros.

There was no sign of hitting partner/assistant coach Robbye Poole. Indeed, Poole wasn’t in Montreal, either.

Here’s some video of Bouchard in practice.

And, of course, there is no official coach at the moment, although Bouchard has been to California to work with Robert Lansdorp on two occasions – after Charleston (and instead of Bogotá), and after the Fed Cup (instead of playing Rabat).

Physical trainer Scott Byrnes appeared to be giving Bouchard a lot of tennis advice. Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau also was on the court.

Zhao, who will be playing her first French Open qualifying, had her right elbow wrapped both above and below. She pulled out of the Trnava tournament after the draw.

She will play former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round. The match also will be on Court 6, just before Bouchard’s tilt.

Currently ranked No. 265, Schiavone, 37, was at No. 156 at the entry deadline for the qualifying, so she made it. Even as a former champion, the French federation saw fit to award their multiple wild cards to a bunch of their players who, let’s face it, aren’t exactly top prospects.

And so, the Italian will try to get through three matches this week.

Zhao does have a little intel on Schiavone, even if it’s not on her beloved clay.

She practiced with her at Indian Wells in March, and even got her to drop some salty language.