Canadian Genie Bouchard’s 2016 tennis season didn’t end with a bang, or a whimper, in Luxembourg Monday evening.
It just sort of … ended.
The positives the 22-year-old can take out of her 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 first-round loss to Denisa Allertova of the Czech Republic are that for the most part, she struck the ball aggressively and well. And until the final few minutes when she kind of faded away, she fought pretty hard, too.
But it was a second consecutive first-round loss to a player ranked far below her on a two-tournament European indoor swing that was as much about living up to commitments made to the tournament organizers as it was to any burning desire she had to keep playing, after a meltdown suffered on court at her home-province in Quebec City a month ago.
Whether or not Bouchard will be ranked in the top 50 at year’s end is no longer up to her; a dozen or so players could theoretically leap over her before the season concludes. But she’s hardly alone in that during a year in which most of the WTA Tour players were up, then down, then up then down.
Among other former top-10 players in Bouchard’s general vicinity in the rankings are former No. 1s. Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, along with Belinda Bencic, Andrea Petkovic and Lucie Safarova.
In Allertova, Bouchard faced a slightly taller, more solidly built player with a similar game style whose ranking going into the match was exactly No. 100.
She’s been better; her career high back in March was No. 55. And she’s been worse. Her play Monday showed why she can hover between two extremes.
By the end, Allertova’s forehand was on fire. Throughout the match, she was plagued by double-faults.
But Bouchard couldn’t take advantage. Allertova went 6-for-11 on break-point chances; Bouchard was just 4-for-16 and while some of those were adroitly saved by her opponent – who got the benefit of several fortunate let cords early on – many others were wasted.
The Canadian was down a break just seven minutes into the match, gifting Allertova with a double fault. Down 3-1, Bouchard then ran out a string of five consecutive games and closed out the first set at love with the help of four consecutive first serves.
She was down a break to start the second set, but got that one back. She was broken again; and broke back in an eternal game in which Allertova double-faulted three times. And then, it was Allertova who ran out the second set.
The first sign of a bit of outward fatigue from Bouchard came at 1-2 in the third, and the best chance she had to take charge of the match came when Allertova was serving at 2-3.
But once the Czech had saved two break points to hold, the first sign of outward frustration came when Bouchard bounced her racquet.
After that, it seemed a matter of time. Bouchard’s tennis brain began lacking a little lucidity at this point; she failed to register how well Allertova was hitting her forehand. She could probably have used an on-court coaching consult from Cyril Saulnier (who has been with her on the European trip standing in for regular coach Nick Saviano). But she didn’t call him down.
There were positive signs in terms of her willingness to stay in rallies, including fewer errors on the crucial second shots. She didn’t quite get the balance right at times; Allertova burned her with winners when she failed to be quite aggressive enough on certain rally balls. But it seemed the intent was there, at least.
Bouchard stayed and signed autographs after the defeat, which was commendable and doesn’t happen all that often.
The season, with a few ups but too many downs, is over and the Canadian now must return home to assess it and, most importantly, reconstruct the consistent, solid team around her that has been lacking for more than 18 months.
But before that happens, she has signed on to play an exhibition event in Turkey Oct. 30.