That’s a headline that has not been seen often lately, but these are crazy times.
Canadian Genie Bouchard dispatched world No. 40 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-0, 6-3 to move into the second round of the Prague Open.
She got her match in before the rain came and scuttled the rest of the day’s schedule.
Bouchard will next face the winner of a clash between Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic and Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, which is not scheduled until at least Tuesday.
“I feel like even though the first set was 6-0, it was actually tough in almost every game. All three games on my serve I had break points against me, so it’s not like it was a walk in the park,” Bouchard said via a Zoom press conference right after the match.
“I’m proud of myself for battling every single game, even though I was ahead. And It ended up going my way most of the time. Proud of the focus and staying on it every point, not too many loose errors. And just playing solid and aggressive, which is what I aim for and try to do with my game.”
Coaching setup a new experience
Bouchard is in Prague with former doubles No. 1 Rennae Stubbs, after their first collaborative steps back in June at an exhibition in Charleston followed by some matches in a smaller event in Kentucky (at the same club where the Top Seed Open is being played this week).
The Canadian has had some experience with female coaches, although they remain a rare sight on the WTA Tour. She had former Wimbledon finalist Nathalie Tauziat of France in her corner when she won the junior event in 2012.
“In Vegas I worked with Stefanie (Graf) on the court. She’s amazing, and now Rennae. I feel like they understand more the emotional side. And if you’re, like, ‘I’m nervous to play this girl because … her outfit,’ or something crazy, they actually understand it. While a male coach might not get the little nuances of females in competition with each other,” Bouchard said.
“And her having been a player. All of these females having been players, that I’ve worked with. They literally are, like, ‘Hey I felt this exact same way before a match, and this is what I told myself, this is what I did’. Having that experience and a feminine viewpoint is really cool, and I really appreciate that.”
Bouchard characterized Stubbs as “a very happy, bubbly, Australian”, with a personality in stark contrast to her own.
“Yes, she has a lot of energy. Sometimes it’s too much for me because I’m really not like that. But I think for on court that is something will help me. And I do feel I do play my best when I’m more high energy. Even if you don’t see it, just internally I’m more active and awake,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard said Stubbs, whose game style as a player also was in stark contrast to Bouchard’s, believes in her game.
“She’s great in terms of tennis knowledge obviously as a player, coach commentator etc. I feel like I’m hearing a lot about her experiences – stories from the past,” Bouchard said. “We’re not trying to change anything drastically, necessarily, but just enhance and improve certain areas. Definitely (the) competitive (side), and as a player, and, like, mentally, that’s one of the big things.
“Yeah, work in progress.”
Not beating yourself the key
On the other side of the court, Kudermetova was definitely out of sorts and not fully engaged.
She had been set to play in Palermo last week. But in the end, she had to withdraw because of quarantine issues coming from Russia.
It’s not clear how much tennis she had during the break. There was talk of an exhibition tournament in Moscow in June that would have involved a lot of the better Russian women players. But that never materialized.
Kudermetova also looked to be struggling in the heat and humidity. Her efforts on all the break points she had against Bouchard’s serve in the first set basically came down to a lot of unforced errors.
As well, Bouchard had some positive memories to fall back on – a 7-5, 6-0 win over Kudermetova in the quarterfinals of Gstaad, on clay, in 2018.
Bouchard didn’t play a ton of singles during the three-week World Team Tennis season. But she did play a number of matches in Charleston, and also in Kentucky. As well, she was practicing every day and in competitive situations nearly every day.
Over the last few years, with so many first-round exits, being in that sustained environment for long periods of time has not been the Canadian’s reality. There has never been much to build upon.
When the opportunity comes, take it
The biggest key to tennis is to not beat yourself. The second key is to allow your opponent to beat herself, if that’s the way she comes on court that day.
Notably, in the last part of the WTT season, Bouchard appeared on court without the dual ankle supports that had been for fixture for quite awhile; she also wasn’t wearing them Monday against Kudermetova. That might help on the movemend side.
That’s certainly what too many of Bouchard’s opponents have done the last few years. And that’s exactly what Bouchard did against Kudermetova. She got a lot of first serves in. She hit a lot of balls down the middle. She chased down everything. She gave the Russian the opportunity to make the error.
And when it came time to serve out the match, Bouchard handled the basics exactly right: four big first serves (including two aces) an aggressive second shot to the corner when she had to hit one..
Up 30 spots in the rankings
Compared to the field in the competing WTA Tour event in Lexington this week, there is much more opportunity for Bouchard in Prague.
Already, formidable opponents like Dayana Yastremska and Daria Kasatkina have withdrawn. Simona Halep, the only top-14 player in the draw, is on the other half along with the tough Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
And when you’re No. 332 in the world, you can move up quickly.
Up two to No. 330 in Monday’s rankings, Bouchard jumped an additional … 30 spots in the live rankings with Monday’s win and currently sits at a provisional No. 300.
If she can win another round, she could rise nearly 30 more spots.
With the abject lack of tournaments available for the women in the coming weeks – which means the competition to get into them will be fierce – every little bit will help.