On the practice court at Indian Wells, March 2015. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)Genie Bouchard and Scott Byrnes
It may be a temporary absence, or another logical explanation may emerge.
But in the wake of Eh Game receiving a tip over the weekend that conditioning coach/trainer Scott Byrnes – the longest-serving member with just over a year's service time – has decided to leave Team Genie Bouchard – the silence was consistent Monday.
Messages to Byrnes went unanswered. E-mails to Bouchard agent Jill Smoller and IMG vice-president of communications Mary-Jane Orman (though whom all official requests for information about Bouchard are supposed to be relayed) also went unanswered.
But there is this: Byrnes, who has been in faithful attendance for every practice and match – even going as far as traveling to Necker Island last November when Bouchard was on vacation/played in Sir Richard Branson's weeklong charity event – was absent Monday as Bouchard practiced in Rome with Caroline Garcia.
The practice court was being streamed live here. And only Bouchard, coach Sam Sumyk and another man (a short, dark-haired gentleman who looked nothing like Byrnes) were on hand.
(Update: Byrnes was indeed MIA for Bouchard's match against Carla Suárez Navarro Thursday. Upon further review, it's likely the gentleman on the practice court with her was Laurent Laffite who, you guessed it, was Azarenka's conditioning coach during her best seasons).
Byrnes has been a pretty indispensable member of the team. There's the warmup and stretching, all the off-court conditioning – which has been considerable over the last year. Byrnes mixed the sports drinks, carried the big Babolat bag, picked up stray balls on the practice court – basically, he did everything.
If Byrnes has indeed departed, the Aussie (who has worked with Vera Zvonareva, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic in his career) would be the third member of the Bouchard team that was together from the spring through the end of the 2014 season – through the best stretch of her year that included the sterling results at the French Open and Wimbledon – to leave. And there were only three in all.
Longtime coach Nick Saviano departed at the end of the season. Also leaving then was hitting partner Tom Burn, a Brit with a cheery presence. At the time, Byrnes told Eh Game that Burn had returned to the U.K. because of prior commitments, and could be back in Australia in January.
He was indeed – but with another player.
Bouchard said then that because temporary coach Diego Ayala was such a good hitting partner, there was no need for Burn. Still, they did have hitting partners in Australia as Ayala concentrated on coaching – with varying degrees of success. One, in fact, didn't even make it all the way through one session.
If Byrnes' departure is permanent – and it's a big decision; opportunities like this with top-10 players don't exactly come around every day – this leaves the "mini-entourage" referred to in the new Flare Magazine story on Bouchard at a total of one – coach Sumyk, whom Bouchard has known for all of three months.
These are definitely not ideal circumstances as the Canadian approaches the key part of her season. She will play Kazakhstan's Zarina Diyas in her second-round match in Rome on Wednesday.