Eugenie Bouchard takes last-minute wild card into big WTA event in Doha

Eugenie Bouchard takes last-minute wild card into big WTA event in Doha

Canadian Genie Bouchard's practice time is over.

When the big "Premier 5" tournament in Doha (Qatar) offered her a wild card into its event next week, the 21-year-old took it.

Ranked No. 61 at the moment (slightly higher than that at the entry deadline for the tournament), Bouchard likely would not have made the cut for the Qatar Total Open – one of the biggest below the Grand Slams.

The tournament also announced Tuesday that top seed Serena Williams has withdrawn because of illness, as she did this week at another big tournament in Dubai. Williams and Bouchard have the same agent, Jill Smoller of IMG.

The Canadian's star power clearly remains such that she can still command a free pass into a large event without having to go through the qualifying rounds. It has to help that Qatar has no homegrown or developing players of its own to award its wild cards to, as would be the case in most other countries.

The tournament in Qatar offers 900 ranking points to the champion and has a 48-player draw with a total prize purse of more than $2.5 million. In contrast, the event in Rio de Janeiro that Bouchard withdrew from this week, citing a need for more practice time, offers 280 points to the champion and 10 per cent of the total prize money. Bouchard would have been among the top seeds in Rio; in Doha, she will be unseeded, but won't have to meet any of the top 16 players entered in the first round.

It's all completely legit – Bouchard had no tournament scheduled next week – but the optics aren't the best after the Canadian spent 3-4 days over the weekend enjoying the NBA All-Star festivities in Toronto.

Her updated winter schedule looks like this: to Qatar, then all the way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where her next scheduled event is a small tournament the size of the one in Rio. She was the top-ranked players entered there at the deadline. As of today, she would have been the No. 4 seed.

Then Bouchard is headed to Indian Wells, California for another big tournament, followed by her "hometown" tournament in Miami – another top-level event.