Charleston, S.C. – When you’ve known a coach half your life, even if you haven’t seen much of each other in a year and a half, it’s like riding a bike.
As Genie Bouchard and former coach Nick Saviano found each other again on the practice courts in Charleston Sunday, it was as though they had never been apart.
The 22-year-old Canadian had a busy day, sandwiching a promotional appearance for the WTA Tour’s official supplement, USANA, between practices at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
She has a full team with her in addition to Saviano; experienced hitting partner Cyril Saulnier, a 40-year-old Frenchman who has an academy set up in Delray Beach, Fla. and has been with Bouchard off-and-on this season, and her physio.
Eh Game spoke to Bouchard after practice No. 2, and while she didn’t say current coach Thomas Hogstedt was on his way out, neither did she give him the proverbial, time-honoured vote of confidence.
“I’ve known Nick since I was 12 years old, and with Thomas not here this week, I asked him to help me,” she said. “I’m just taking it week by week – actually, day by day.”
Hogstedt was not scheduled to accompany Bouchard to Charleston, so Saviano is not here instead of the affable Swede.
But obviously this is not the same situation as at the US Open last fall, when Bouchard was without a coach and the legendary Jimmy Connors came on board for a week as an advisor. With the history between the Bouchard and Saviano, that’s not a realistic comparison.
Saviano declined to answer any questions about the renewed relationship to Eh Game, referring the matter to Bouchard.
The longtime relationship between coach and pupil ended with the 2014 season, a season during which Bouchard won her first (and so far, only) WTA Tour event in Nürnberg, Germany, reached the semi-final at the French Open, the Wimbledon final, the WTA Tour finals in Singapore and a career-high ranking of No. 5.
By then, the atmosphere around Team Bouchard was definitely sombre. Hitting partner Tom Burn was gone by the end of the year, not long after Saviano and Bouchard parted company. By spring, physical trainer Scott Byrnes was also history (he currently works with American Madison Keys).
There was no announcement from the Bouchard camp back then about Saviano’s departure; in a rather unusual move in these circumstances, word that Saviano was no longer the coach came from the coach’s side.
Characterized as a mutual decision, the reality was that it appeared to be Saviano’s call. The American, whose dislike of travel is well-known and caused him to turn down coaching offers from many top players over the years, has a thriving academy in south Florida and doesn’t need the job. Multiple sources said he wasn’t particularly enamoured by the way things were going.
There was little or no interaction between the two during the 2015 season when Saviano went back on the road to work with another player he had known since she was a pre-teen, Sloane Stephens.
Clearly, it was Bouchard herself who had to reach out under these circumstances. And she did, indicative of a growing maturity and a willingness to take charge of her own affairs. The pair had at least one, possible more training sessions together last week in Florida before meeting up here in Charleston to begin work at the Volvo Car Open.
What will happen beyond this week is an open question. If Saviano indeed is to assume full-time coaching duties again, neither coach nor pupil is anywhere close to making an announcement to that effect.
Bouchard wouldn’t elaborate on how the reunion with Saviano came about. Nor did she confirm that she intended to continue as normal with Hogstedt after this one-tournament break.
She didn’t say she wouldn’t remain with Hogstedt either. She didn't commit either way.
Bouchard lost in the first round at her last tournament, two weeks ago at the Miami Open. It was a tough day at the office against a big-serving opponent who played very well for much of it.
The on-court coaching consult with Hogstedt after she was outplayed by Lucie Hradecka in the first set revealed a Bouchard who appeared somewhat exasperated with the coach’s positive, rah-rah advice.
'First of all, Genie, you're going to win this match.;
'Yeah, that's what you want to think.'
Bouchard & Hogstedt pic.twitter.com/AiXnm6xgiV
— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) March 23, 2016
Whether that was the first sign of trouble in purgatory or just a momentary blip, only the future will tell. Back in Bradenton, Fla., Hogstedt certainly can’t be feeling particularly bullish about the situation.
Bouchard’s insistence on keeping things vague where Hogstedt is concerned were similar, in tone at least, to her thoughts about now-former coach Sam Sumyk after losing in the first round of Wimbledon last year to Ying-Ying Duan of China.
By the time Bouchard arrived in Toronto for the Rogers Cup, she announced through her agent that Sumyk was history.
As of right now, Thomas Hogstedt remains her coach.