The most important tennis tournament in Canada lost its top women’s and men’s players on Tuesday evening, and on the surface that should be cause for great concern.
Genie Bouchard was beaten 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 by world No. 20 Belinda Bencic in Toronto while Milos Raonic lost 7-6(1), 7-6(1) to No. 23-ranked Ivo Karlovic in Montreal.
The Rogers Cup events are obviously the poorer for their exits but there were probably as many positives as negatives in the two results.
Neither had played a competitive match since Wimbledon – June 30 for Bouchard and July 3for Raonic – and both left the All England Club with fitness issues that affected their preparation for the Rogers Cup tournaments.
Bouchard played Wimbledon with a grade two abdominal tear and had to withdraw from last week’s WTA event in Washington because it was still a worry.
After his third-round loss to Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, Raonic basically said he hurt all over as a result of compensating for a foot problem that required surgery for Morton’s Neuroma (nerve inflammation) on May 13.
On Tuesday, many people’s worst fears appeared to be realized when Bouchard dropped the first set to Bencic with a shaky display matched against a solid effort by the 18-year-old Swiss. But Bencic went down a notch at the beginning of the second set, and that gave Bouchard a chance to play tennis more like the kind that took her to a career-high ranking of No. 5 last year.
She saved a match point trailing 5-4 in the second set with a bold forehand drive.
From then on it took on all the trappings of a genuine, competitive match, with Bouchard matching Bencic in the rallies and displaying her trademark fighting spirit.
The tide turned for the final time when Bencic broke Bouchard to lead 2-1 in the final set but by then the 21-year-old Montrealer had already scored a moral victory of sorts.
She had shown grit by rebounding from a humiliating 6-0 first set dusting and was striking the ball well and taking control of rallies like the Bouchard of old.
Credit has to go to Bencic for finally taking control in the third set but it would only be normal that Bouchard’s mental and physical capacities would be vulnerable the longer the match went because of her limited preparation.