TORONTO — A win at the Rogers Cup sure didn’t take any of the sting away from the loss earlier in the day for Genie Bouchard.
Canada’s top-ranked woman is one and done at her home tournament—in the singles, draw, at least—after a straight set loss on Tuesday, which she followed up with a win in doubles just a couple hours later.
The 23-year-old’s run in the singles draw lasted just one hour and 34 minutes.
“I made too many unforced errors,” said Bouchard, of her 6-3, 6-4 loss to qualifier Donna Vekic on a sunny afternoon on centre court at the Aviva Centre. “I’m obviously a bit low in confidence right now, so it’s tough to get through matches when you’re in a moment like that.”
The Montreal-born Bouchard, who’s ranked 70th in the world, lost for the first time to Vekic, the world No. 51, who she beat last year in their only other meeting.
Playing in front of a crowd that filled a little more than half the stands, Bouchard opened the match by ripping a winner cross court on the opening point. But she failed to hold her serve, sending a forehand wide to go down 0-1 off the hop.
Things didn’t improve much from there in the early goings. Bouchard held her serve just once in the first set, one highlighted by unforced errors from the hometown favourite, whose aggressive style was on display, though producing more mistakes than winners.
Bouchard called her movement on the court “terrible” in the early goings, and said she felt like she was playing in “slow motion.”
Bouchard managed to break Vekic to make it 1-3 in the first, but couldn’t hold her own serve in the following game. When she broke Vekic again, it seemed the tide had turned. Bouchard held her serve for the first time to make it 3-4, and after firing a cross-court winner she pumped her fist, yelled “Yes!” and pulled a ball out of her pocket and fired it into the ground.
It was one of many displays of emotion for the Canadian as she tried to fight her way back into this match.
But Vekic would go on to win the next two games, and the momentum was once again with the Croatian.
The crowd did its part, yelling “Keep your head up!” and “C’mon Genie!” and “You can do it!”
In the second set, Bouchard managed to hold her serve early, then broke Vekic and fired a winner cross court to take a 2-1 lead. But Vekic broke Bouchard right back to make it 2-2, thanks to one of seven double faults on the day for the Canadian. After that one, Bouchard smacked her racket into the hard court, then covered her face with her hand while she motioned for a towel.
The second set was tied 4-4, but Vekic took the last two games, with Bouchard sending a forehand into the net to end the match.
After shaking hands, she tossed her racket to some kids in the stands, then walked off the court and waved while fans cheered. Her record in singles matches this year is now 12-16, and a third-round appearance last year in Montreal remains Bouchard’s best finish at the Rogers Cup.
Following the match, Bouchard was once again asked by a full room of media about the criticism from many who believe she spends too much time taking selfies, and not enough time practising. To the critics, she says: “You have no idea what my life is like and what my days are like.”
And she may be 23, but Bouchard says she “feels old,” because she’s been on Tour a long time — we first saw her at the Rogers Cup as a 17-year-old. So there is an urgency to her desire to get back to her top form.
“I think it’s important to feel the pressure of time a little bit, to get into action, you know, and not just relax and let years go by,” she said. “That would be the worst thing I could do.”
Bouchard is still alive, here, however. Karolina Pliskova texted Bouchard last week asking if she’d like to partner up in the doubles draw. As Bouchard says, “You don’t say no to No. 1 in the world.” They won their first-round match later Tuesday afternoon in straight sets.
So, the hometown favourite is still playing in her home tournament, though not in the draw she favours.
And Bouchard has a solution for how to get back that confidence, the confidence she had in 2014 when she was No. 5 in the world, and cracked the Wimbledon final.
“Win matches,” she said.