WIMBLEDON – Genie Bouchard hasn’t been playing any tennis lately, so she joked that she’s been walking around with her Babolat racquet in her hand just she could “look like a professional tennis player”.
The abdominal issue that forced her to retire from her third-round match at Eastbourne Wednesday has kept Bouchard off the courts. She hopes to get some practice in tomorrow but clearly she’s not at her best on any level as she returns to the scene of her first Grand Slam final a year ago.
“With the Tuesday start, that’s why I’m not pushing it today; an extra day will give me a little more rest,” Bouchard said Saturday as she and many of the other players went through interviews with various media. “Saving myself for the match a bit. Practice, I’ve done a lot of it in my life, so I’ll try to give it all in the match.”
The 21-year-old Canadian’s struggles have been well-documented. And she’s gone through the gamut of emotions about it. There was negativity. There was probably denial. These days, not only is she displaying a sense of humour about it on social media, she’s trying to see the positives.
“Its actually not been a fun kind of routine. Go to a tournament, prepare for 3-4 days, lose your match, take a day off. Go to the next tournament, prepare for 3-4 days, lose your match. Kind of a vicious cycle. It’s not been fun. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything as tough as this,” she said. “I feel like when things are not going well you tend to think more, and it gives you more time to think because you’re not going deep in the draws. … I want to get that winning routine back. When you don’t win matches for a while, you feel it’s almost more normal to lose. I don’t want that mentality.
“It’s not because you have bad results that you’re doing the wrong things,” she added. “I know what I need to do and I want to believe in that no matter what – stay true to myself in a certain sense – and not freak out, panic, or change things dramatically just because a downward sort of spiral.”
The abdominal situation isn’t anything new, and it’s the second this year she’s had it after a tough loss at Indian Wells to qualifier Lesia Tsurenko. It’s something she said she’ll have to address.
“I’ve heard that from doctors that it can be kind of recurring thing. Clearly it’s an issue I need to work on, and after this we’ll definitely be more focused on it, because it’s already the second time it happens this year,” she said. “Also, I’ve tried to change a few things on the serve, very small changes, but it always affects the body in different ways and you start compensating.”
The serve adjustment is noticeable in practice where Bouchard’s motion is simplified, rather straight up and down. In matches, she usually starts hitting it that way but when things get tight, typically reverts back to the old serve. That’s a perfectly normal part of any stroke change; the muscle memory from the old technique was ingrained for years and years, the new technique doesn’t stand a chance at first.
“Getting rid of excess movement has been key. Definitely just trying to have simple serves, not waste energy on other movements and save it all for hitting the ball,” she said. “But to change habits is definitely a hard thing.”
The other issue Bouchard has had to deal with is how her opponents are playing against her. That, too, is something she has come to accept. Because she’s been there.
“I completely feel that. This year, they know my game, they know me. I’m also more in the position of being the hunted. When I played a top player, you raised your game because you know you need that. I definitely feel the girls play against me with more of that mentality, which makes it even tougher to play against them,” she said. “I don’t know how Serena does it week in and week out. It’s true what they say: it’s tough to get (to the top), but it’s even tougher to stay there.”
As Wimbledon gets under way, Bouchard is hoping that all of the positive memories she has at the All-England Club (she won the junior singles title and two junior doubles titles in addition to reaching the final last year) will have a karmic effect.
“Just walking on the grounds, walking into the seeded players’ locker room, all the amazing things Wimbledon has. It just reminds me of why I love tennis so much, and why it’s my favourite tournament,” she said. “I’ve always seemed to have good results and memories here, even in the juniors. Obviously I would have loved to have played more matches this year – regardless of health – to feel better with my game.
“Things are not perfect, but maybe Wimbledon can revive me a little bit.”