INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – In the last year or so, as Canadian Genie Bouchard has risen to the top of women's tennis, there haven't been many nights like Tuesday night in the desert at the BNP Paribas Open.
The 21-year-old had physical issues, emotional issues and posted up perhaps the worst body language we've ever seen from her in a match since she joined the WTA Tour full-time. From beginning to end against qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, from serving for the match in the second set, to posting up a 4-1 lead with two breaks of serve in the third, to losing 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, it was a struggle.
"A lot of things just didn't go my way today in terms of everything. I felt heavy out there. Legs sluggish from the beginning of the match. I tried to get myself going, but it was kind of a struggle throughout the whole match," Bouchard said. "Yeah. I mean, I just, you know, didn't feel like I was myself at all in terms of how I was playing. She was, you know, very solid, very consistent. I was really struggling."
The match wasn't broadcast on either English- or French-language television back home in Canada. So for those who didn't get a chance to watch it, here's a quick look at the (mostly) worst moments, the looks of despair. There were at least three racquet tosses – one of them was was a double toss, which awards bonus points.
Generally, especially at non-Grand Slam events, Bouchard will bounce into the press conference room fresh from a shower, hair in a ponytail, makeup free. Even after a defeat.
Not this time. She took some care with it, applying a little makeup to try to cover up the fact that there clearly had been tears not only during the match, but afterwards as well.
When she spoke to the media, though, she was fairly calm and honest about what had gone on out there.
Bouchard hadn't yet had the abdominal strain assessed, but said that it wasn't the first time it happened and on previous occasions, as long as she jumped on it quickly, it was something that didn't take long to get right again.
The Canadian said she felt out of sorts from the warmup although, as you can see here, she looked in fairly good spirits and certainly it didn't seem as though there was much out of the ordinary, from an outside perspective. We did get a few eyewitness reports that, earlier in the warmup, there were some tears.
The defeat also was a big opportunity lost. As often happened during her breakthrough 2014 season at the majors, Bouchard watched some of the top players in her sections of the draw fall away before she had a chance to face them.
In this case, she could have met No. 9 seed Andrea Petkovic or even former Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova instead of the qualifier Tsurenko in the round of 16. In the quarter-final, she would have met Jelena Jankovic, not No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who was originally slotted in that section but lost early.
Most of all, No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova, one of Bouchard's biggest challenges, was upset by defending champion Flavia Pennetta earlier in the day.
Instead, Bouchard lost to a player who has been very much on form here, but who was so unknown to the fans on hand in Stadium 2 that they alternatively referred to her as "Lisa", "Alicia" and "Leesha".
She did, however, have a high-profile supporter on hand in Alexandr Dolgopolov, a fellow Ukrainian who, earlier in the day, had been beaten by Bouchard's fellow Canadian, Milos Raonic, in the men's singles.
Clearly Dolgopolov was there to try to help reverse the karma. And it worked.
The entire atmosphere felt a bit off, really. After her first two matches were played in the big stadium, Bouchard was in the second stadium, No. 2, for this evening match.
It's a perfect little stadium, a smaller replica of the big house, where the upper seats can be full because it's first-come, first-serve on general admission. But the lower bowl, which requires a separate ticket, can sometimes be sparse.
As well, there are three reservation-only restaurants around the top of the lower section – including a brand of the high-end Nobu. As a result, you can hear the restaurant noises clanking through the venue. And the inferior level of tennis – Bouchard had 74 unforced errors; Tsurenko was hardly a slacker, with 59 – meant that instead of cheers and applause, the background noise was mostly the cacaphony of non-tennis-related conversations around the stands.
In the end, it was an awfully emotional day on the ladies' side, for whatever reason.
Pennetta was having on-court crying jags during the first set of her win over Sharapova. Germany's Sabine Lisicki – who cries when she wins, when she loses, at cute kitty photos, when the sun rises and sets every day and on days ending with a "y" – had her moments after defeating Caroline Garcia of France.
Bouchard, less overtly emotional than either of those two as a general rule, joined them on this day.
Next up for the Canadian is the tournament in Miami. Bouchard has some time to heal her psyche, and her abdominal muscle; it's another 10-day event, similar to Indian Wells, which means she will again have a first-round bye and won't have to take the court until the weekend after next.