MONTREAL — Eugenie Bouchard put her loss to American Shelby Rogers at the Rogers Cup Canadian Open in perspective when asked if it was one of the most disappointing moments in her young tennis career.
“I don’t think so, it’s only a match,” Bouchard replied.
The loss Tuesday night may have seemed more significant because the 20-year-old from Westmount was playing at home and most of the pre-tournament hype for the event centred on her.
Bouchard captured the hearts and minds of Canadians with a string of impressive performances. She was the only player on the WTA Tour to reach the semifinals of the year’s first three Grand Slam events. She was in the final four at the Australian and French Opens and then achieved one of her 2014 goals by reaching the final at Wimbledon. Bouchard achieved her other goal when she climbed to No. 7 in the WTA rankings and has earned more than $2.6 million U.S. in official prize money this year.
But Bouchard noted that life on the pro tennis circuit has its ups and downs and her success in the Grand Slam events overshadowed some of the downs. She has played 15 tournaments this year and Tuesday marked the seventh time this season she has lost her first match at an event.
When you look at the circumstances surrounding Tuesday night’s match, Rogers’s victory should not have been a surprise.
There are those who would argue Bouchard succumbed to the pressure of playing at home and that she was distracted by the demands on her time, which come with being a highly marketable superstar. Bouchard admitted to feeling some pressure, but hit the nail on the head when she said she was “match rusty.”
You can train as hard and as long as you want, but there’s no substitute for playing matches. Bouchard hadn’t played a match since she lost to Petra Kvitova in the Wimbledon final more than a month ago. It’s just as important to note that Bouchard hadn’t played on an outdoor hard court since mid-March when she lost in the first round in Miami.
Bouchard was scheduled to play last week in Washington, but withdrew with a convenient knee injury. Looking at the big picture with the U.S. Open at the end of the month, it might have been the right decision, but it certainly didn’t provide Bouchard with the preparation she needed to play at home.
Then there was her opponent. Rogers said she would hit with Bouchard when they were juniors training in Florida and she beat Bouchard in a challenger event three years ago when they were novice professionals. Rogers failed to qualify for Wimbledon, but kept busy in the intervening weeks.
When asked whether the win over Bouchard was the high point of her career, the 21-year-old Rogers said: “I’ve been getting that question a lot lately.”
That’s because Rogers has been playing the best tennis of her career. Last week, she beat No. 21 Alize Cornet of France. In her previous tournament at Bad Gastein, Austria, Rogers went to the final and had wins over top-20 players Sara Errani of Italy and Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain. After bottoming out at No. 171 in the rankings earlier this year, Rogers will make her debut in the top 100 next week.
You also have to factor in Rogers’s status as a qualifier. Any seeded player will tell you that qualifiers are dangerous because they have a few matches under their belts and they have a feel for the courts. By the time she met Bouchard, Rogers had already played three matches here. Rogers wasn’t the only qualifier to have success in the main draw. Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan upset 12th-seed Flavia Pennetta in the first round and British qualifier Heather Watson upset 10th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia Wednesday.
Tuesday’s loss was a disappointment for Bouchard and for her many supporters, but it’s just one match.
Stacey Allaster, the Canadian who runs the WTA Tour, discussed Bouchard’s impact on the women’s tour Tuesday and said the team surrounding Bouchard — her agent, coach Nick Saviano and her mother — have a plan geared to long-term success.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Allaster said.
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