[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]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.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”5903″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]“I feel like I started out a little bit rusty,” Bouchard said. “I haven’t had a lot of match play recently, but I was able to raise my game, and I think it was pretty competitive out there after that first set. So I’m pleased with my performance.”
She added about what is probably the principal concern, “I played the whole match pain free,that was one of the goals and the most important one maybe. So I’m really happy about that as well.”
She will now move onto Cincinnati next week knowing that she has shown she can compete and play at something approaching her best level.
Maybe the only disappointing thing about the evening was when she spoke about her break-up with coach Sam Sumyk. “It definitely wasn’t working,” she said about the roughly four-month relationship with the veteran Frenchman. “There were some big problems, and I just felt like I had to make a change. I think that was necessary for me.”
Of course Bouchard has the right to hire whoever she likes as a coach, but it would also be nice to hear her take on some of the responsibility herself.
Raonic’s loss was also doubtlessly affected by his preparation as well, all of that the result of a longstanding foot problem.
He did not have a single break point on the Karlovic serve during the match and had to defend all 10 on his serve just to be able to force two tiebreaks. Karlovic has played three tournaments since Wimbledon – 6-3 in matches – while Raonic had played none as he attempted to get himself healthy again.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”5904″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Karlovic belted 22 aces – including the 10,000th of his career – to 10 for Raonic.
Another telling stat was that Raonic was only able to win 76 per cent of first serve points, not a flattering number against Karlovic who is hardly the most stellar returner on the tour.
“Now I’m just trying to get in as many matches as I can, sort of get that competitive comfort back,” Raonic said. “I don’t think there’s any competitivity [sic] missing. I think it’s that sort of ease that things are going to work out that you have when you play a few matches.”
As for the immediate future, Raonic said, “right now I think the main thing is getting healthy. There’s very few things I wouldn’t give up for health right now. I think I’ve just got to really focus on that so it doesn’t hamper with my training or my matches.”
Getting more precise, he said, “The foot has been good. It hasn’t been an issue or any concern.”
So what is it, he was asked. “It’s been just sort of my back,” he said. “I think maybe subconsciously still protecting my foot.” With a wry smile he joked, “so therefore, compensating, just finding issues sort of different places (at) different times of the day.”[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”5907″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Vasek Pospisl was also not fitness issues-free, admitting after a 6-4, 6-3 victory over qualifier Yen-Hsun Lu that he had concerns about a shoulder problem entering the tournament.
Playing on National Bank Court, the No. 45-ranked Pospisil broke serve in the second game of the match against the No. 82-ranked Lu. However, a very poor service game at 5-3 resulted in a break back by the 31-year-old from Taipei. But Lu kind of returned the favour in the next game and Pospisil was on his way, playing on the same court where he had many of his best wins on his way to the semifinals at the 2013 Rogers Cup.
A break of serve in a six-deuce game when he led 2-1 in the second set was all Pospisil needed to wrap up the contest in an hour and 20 minutes.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”5906″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]“The conditions weren’t too easy,” Pospisil said about day with rain interruptions that finally ended at 11:18 p.m. when the Andy Murray – Tommy Robredo match was called at 4-all in the opening set by yet more precipitation.
“I felt like in general it was a good match, but definitely felt like I could have played better and done some things better. So I’m just happy that I survived that one and got the win in front of the crowd. I can relax a little bit for the next one. I’m sure I can play better.”
That next one is against John Isner, the opening match of the evening session on Centre Courton Wednesday. Pospisil and Isner have a 2-2 head-to-head record with the 6-foot-10 American recording his second career win over the 6-foot-4 Canadian in the second round of Washington last week by a 6-4, 7-6(4) score.
Isner won the Atlanta ATP 250 two weeks ago and was runner-up to Kei Nishikori in the ATP 500 tournament in Washington on Sunday.
“I’m sure he is starting to feel a little bit tired,” Pospisil said about Isner. “I mean, he has to be. He’s gotten to the finals of the last two events, played a lot of tennis, played some three setters.
“Definitely he can’t be completely fresh. But, you know, I’m sure he’s also confident. He’s won a lot of matches. Similar situation when I played him here two years ago. I think he was coming off of two finals in a row.”[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”5902″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Frank Dancevic exited earlier in the day, beaten 6-2, 6-4 by Pablo Andujar of Spain.
The world No. 48 broke serve at 2-all in the opening set and pretty well controlled the match from there on against Dancevic, currently ranked an unflattering No. 251.
“I felt like the way I was practicing this week, like I had a good chance today against Pablo,” Dancevic said. “But it was tough. He surprised me on court the way he played. I felt like he played really solid, really well. He took away my weapons, which is not good for me. Not good for someone to take away your weapons.”
Turning 31 next month, Dancevic is almost eight years removed from his career high of No. 65 in September, 2007, and was playing in his 13th Rogers Cup.
Summing up his status at the moment, he said, “I think it’s time just to take a step back and think about what things I need to work on in my game, the way I want to approach the next six months of the year, make a plan, then go from there.”[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
CARTE POSTALE – MONTREAL
[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”5916″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Here’s a view above of the mountain in Westmount on a recent sunny morning, and below in dreary, drizzly, foggy Tuesday morning.
Vive la difference.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”5915″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row]