Genie Bouchard never left China. But the difference between Wuhan and Beijing was night and day.
From the heat and stifling humidity in Wuhan, and a finals appearance against Petra Kvitova, Bouchard moved on to chilly Beijing and had only a few days to adapt to the vastly different conditions. Hampered by a left adductor injury that may well have been exacerbated by the cool temperatures, the 20-year-old from Montreal meekly went down 6-2, 6-4 to the big-serving German Sabine Lisicki in her first match Tuesday afternoon.
The fuzzy, thick, humidity-infused braid Bouchard sported in steamy Wuhan was gone, replaced by a thin, straight, one that hung limply down her back and rather reflected her mood on the day. She also had the middle finger of her left hand wrapped above and below the knuckle, a leftover from the Wuhan final, where she hit herself on a forehand follow-through. It was pretty painful at the time, and probably didn't feel that much better on Tuesday.
Both players came out with long-sleeved tops on, and never took them off; chair umpire Kader Nouni was dressed in what appeared to be a down jacket. The fans were bundled up, too, including a sizable Bouchard cheering section amongst the small crowd on Moon Court, the third and smallest of the stadium courts at the China Open.
That the leg was bothering her was fairly evident in the early going. Instead of landing firmly on the leg after her serve, she hopped. The double-faults piled up during a match where both players seemed to have early dinner plans; both barely moved off the baseline, the points concluded mostly with errors. If they took five seconds between points, it was an exception.
In one game in the first set, Bouchard was broken after double-faulting twice on game points. And when she double-faulted, it wasn't a half-baked effort; on some of them, the ball was hitting off the top of her frame and landing 10 feet beyond the service line.
After a half-hour, the first set was concluded in Lisicki's favour. Bouchard probably could have used a little pep talk from coach Nick Saviano. But Saviano didn't make the trip to Asia. Instead, the Canadian had to try to keep her own spirits up as Lisicki was laughing with coach Mark Goellner just a few feet away.
On this day, it probably wouldn't have much mattered.
After being broken to start the second set – three more double faults – Bouchard sat down and called for the trainer. She returned from being treated off court with a heavy wrap on her upper left leg. But it didn't seem to make much of a difference.
Bouchard rarely retires in matches, though. And she carried on in this one. There was certainly hope to be had in hanging in there; Lisicki's double-fault rate was nearly as high as Bouchard's, and while the German hit some terrific shots, she also made some fairly egregious errors.
Surely enough, down 1-3, Bouchard reeled off three straight games. She even had a break point to go up 5-3, but Lisicki saved it.
Once the German got it to 4-4, that was sort of it. Bouchard tried to hop around and get herself going, but Lisicki put together the only really good tennis of the day to run out the match.
The fastest Bouchard walked all match long was in the trip up to the net, through the handshakes, and off the court.
Her Asian swing, a brief two-tournament stand, is over. The Canadian wasn't able to cement a spot in the year-end championships in Singapore, and so now will have to head to tournaments in Europe to try and wrap it up.