Tennis legend Jimmy Connors has a whole lot to say to Genie Bouchard

Eh Game
Tennis legend Jimmy Connors has a whole lot to say to Genie Bouchard
Tennis legend Jimmy Connors has a whole lot to say to Genie Bouchard

NEW YORK – It hasn't even yet begun, but Genie Bouchard's US Open so far has been made up of a rogue's gallery of her 2015 memories.

It began at the draw, with her first opponent (American Alison Riske) and her potential second-round opponent (Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan) being among her few victims on the tennis court this season.

On Saturday, she took on Kristina Mladenovic in a practice match – Mladenovic, the Frenchwoman who so summarily dismissed her in the first round of the French Open and then again, 6-0 in the third set, in the first round of Birmingham on grass a few weeks later.

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Truth be told, the outcome of this practice wasn't much different than those matches even if, since it doesn't count or anything, the scores will not be recorded for posterity.

But what was noted for posterity was the marathon pep talk mentor Jimmy Connors launched into at the end of the 90-minute workout.

As it happened, the bench Team Bouchard was using was in the shade behind the court, rather than at the net between the two courts. So as the next occupants of practice court P5 – Agnieszka Radwanska and Bojana Jovanovski – came on and started warming up, they saw what was happening down at the end and didn't even bother trying to claim their rightful territory. Instead, they shared one bench.

Connors began to talk; Bouchard put a towel over her head.

Radwanska and Jovanovski warmed up their groundstrokes; Connors was still talking.

The two women hit their volleys; Connors was STILL talking.

They warmed up their serves ... STILL talking.

Bouchard interjected rarely. But from what you could see, given the towel, her head was definitely tilted Connors' way. Occasionally, you could see a nod under the towel. No doubt she was paying attention.

Jimmy Connors gives a marathon pep talk to Genie Bouchard at the conclusion of her practice session at the US Open Saturday. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
Jimmy Connors gives a marathon pep talk to Genie Bouchard at the conclusion of her practice session at the US Open Saturday. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

This went on for 15 minutes, in full view of the other players, their coaches, and hundreds of people surrounding the practice court, which is the closest one to the fence and one that most people walk by. As well, towards the end of the practice, the activities on Arthur Ashe Stadium for Kid's Day were ending. So there was another crush of fans.

No matter. Whatever Connors was saying – and we'll probably never know – it was a mouthful.

Fed Cup coach Sylvain Bruneau, hitting partner Marko Dragic and trainer Dean Hollingworth (the Montreal resident, who works out of the Côte-de-Liesse club, had worked with Bouchard before and received a call late Wednesday afternoon during the Rogers Cup, the day after she had been eliminated by Belinda Bencic), to join her in Toronto the next day), were all there, listening intently.

One of them probably should have gone to get the pair some water from the cooler near the net, as hot as it was. But they were pretty rapt as well. "It was pretty interesting," Bruneau said.

Connors is reportedly leaving on Sunday, back in a week. But he will be back on court with Bouchard Sunday with one last chance to dispense some wisdom.

Eh Game tried to speak to Connors, approaching him for an interview. He responded that he needed to "go inside" to see what was going on; Bouchard had gone in to do some post-practice recovery with Hollingsworth.

Would he come back out? "I'm not promising anything," he said, in that Jimbo-like way that has endeared him to so many.

About a half-hour later, out walked Connors, a can of Coke in hand. Right past where the TV crews were set up – and straight to the parking lot.

We'll try again Sunday. 

Here's what Bouchard's practice looked like – including that epic pep talk. The practice itself was, to be frank, not the best practice she's ever had.

 

 

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