Bouchard: It’s Been Quite A Journey This Week

Eugenie Bouchard (photo: @newbalance/Twitter)

GUADALAJARA/WASHINGTON, March 13, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

From wild card to title match, the joy has been in the journey this week in the high altitude of Guadalajara, Mexico for Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard.

Friday evening, the 144th-ranked Canadian from Montreal reached the final of the WTA 250 Abierto Zapopan 2021 with a satisfying 6-2, 7-6 (2) victory over No. 134 Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy. It was Bouchard’s first WTA semifinal of the season, while it was the first time Cocciaretto had ever gone this far in a WTA tour-level event.

Bouchard, 27, took advantage of the 20-year-old Italian’s youthful inexperience, breaking her opponent three times while winning many if not most of the pressure-filled points. She outpointed Cocciaretto 81-62.

“It’s been a hectic week, I haven’t had time to slow down and think at all,” Bouchard told Tennis TourTalk during a virtual interview with international media following her semifinal victory. “From no altitude to altitude … whatever happens, happens. I’m here to play, I’m not putting any pressure on myself. I almost didn’t come. So, I’m super happy I decided to just say, ‘I’m going to go for it and go to Mexico and play. I’m happy that I did. You just never know what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, during her tri-lingual virtual interview in English, Italian and Spanish afterward, Cocciaretto admitted it “wasn’t my best tennis today, my best performance.” Still, she gave due props to Bouchard and called it a learning experience. “She played good, she’s a great player, but I didn’t think I played my best tonight. I was negative. I will take the experience and improve for the next tournament.”

Looking back, the 33-minute first set went to Bouchard as she broke Cocciaretto’s serve in the third and seventh games while not facing any break points. She consolidated each break of Cocciaretto’s serve and won the set with an easy hold. Bouchard won all seven of her second-serve points and dominated the young Italian’s second serve. She outpointed Cocciaretto 28-15.

Then, in the second set, Bouchard broke through in the fifth game and consolidated it for a 4-2 advantage. However, Cocciaretto wasn’t quite ready to concede. She converted her first break-point in six tries and struck back with a line-hugging backhand passing shot to get back on serve at 5-all. Then, she took a 6-5 lead to surge ahead. In the next game, Bouchard gained a strong hold to send the match to a second-set tie break.

Could Bouchard recover to win and reach her eighth WTA final overall and first final since Istanbul on clay last year, following the WTA tour resumption in August? Yes.

The Canadian broke Cocciaretto three times during the tie break and won the final five points of the one hour and 45-minute match to move into Saturday evening’s final. She acknowledged the appreciation of the crowd and blew a kiss toward the court-side camera as walked off the court at the Centro Panamericano de Tenis.

Bouchard reached her first WTA semifinal of the season in Guadalajara by defeating No. 154 Caroline Dolehide, No. 91 Kaja Juvan and No. 120 Caty McNally, dropping just one set, while Cocciaretto arrived with a clean slate. Now, Cocciaretto is off to Monterrey, Mexico, to play qualifying for the Abierto GNP Seguros on Saturday, while Bouchard has a well-earned final to play.

Meanwhile, Bouchard’s journey to Mexico started last weekend in Lyon, France, where she competed in the Open 6ème Sens – Métropole de Lyon, reaching the doubles final. From there, it was about a 12-hour flight to Guadalajara covering more than 5,200 nautical miles while crossing seven time zones.

As Bouchard explained to Tennis TourTalk during a late-night Thursday interview:

“I’m super proud of myself because the turnaround was crazy,” she said. “I’ve never had to land the night before a first-round main draw match. I don’t think I’ve ever done that, from a different continent, indoors to outdoors, different conditions, seven-hour time zones. It was the craziest thing. I just told myself I would try my best and see what happens. I didn’t really have time to think, so I just hit the ground running.

“My first round was really tough, getting used to the conditions, playing [Caroline] Dolehide. I don’t know how I did it. I’ve just been waking up every day, playing a match, and here I am,” she said breaking into laughter.

Bouchard has been a crowd favorite all week as spectators have clamored for her attention, waving banners and cheering loudly.

“It is so special; I can’t emphasize that enough,” she said. “It’s so special to play in front of fans. It’s the most fans I’ve played in front of since over a year ago, probably Auckland in 2020. It’s just like so much more fun. Yeah, it’s like the point of doing what we do, actually playing in front of them instead of playing a match in practice conditions. They’ve been so fun and into it. They seem to know and appreciate tennis. Those are always my favorite kinds of crowds to play in front of.”

Best friends clash in Abierto Zapopan 2021 semifinal

When Tennis TourTalk queried No. 2 seed Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic, who lives and trains in Bradenton, Fla., about her late Friday semifinal opponent, No. 4 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, her eyes lit up and she beamed a big smile. Here’s why:

“Sara is my best friend on tour,” the 50th-ranked Bouzkova said following her Thursday evening quarterfinal victory over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia. “We know each other really well. We practiced together in Australia during the quarantine. It’s going to be a tough match. She’s a big competitor, a big fighter.”

As it turned out, it was Sorribes Tormo’s night to shine. She won 6-3, 7-6 (3) in two hours and five minutes to reach the first WTA tour-level final of her career. After the match ended, there was nothing but smiles and admiration – no animosity.

During a late-night virtual press conference, a tired but happy Sorribes Tormo said: “I think it was a tough match for both. We know each other very well, and it was an emotional match for me and for her. I’m happy with the way I managed the emotions and all the moments in the match.”

Earlier in the week, when Tennis TourTalk caught up with Sorribes Tormo after her second-round win against No. 157 Leonie Kung of Switzerland, she was asked if she felt any pressure being seeded. “No, no, no. I’m just trying to play each match as best as I can,” she said. “It’s difficult to play here because of the attitude, so I want to win as many points as possible.

“We are feeling good and happy to be here. I try to do my best, play my best and put pressure on the other player. I try be happy at the end of the day.”

For Sorribes Tormo, it doesn’t matter if she wins or loses. “I think my game is going in the right direction.”

Giuliana Olmos: Playing for love of country

Mexico’s Giuliana Olmos was introduced to tennis by her father, but didn’t learn to appreciate the sport until she was older. Born in Schwarzach, Austria – her mother is Austrian and her father is Mexican – Olmos emigrated to the United States to live in Fremont, Calif., near San Francisco, when she was two.

Nearly a decade later, Olmos began to find joy in playing tennis and has never looked back. Now, at age 28, she admits a love of competing and the chance to travel and represent Mexico internationally is what has motivated her to keep improving.

“I felt like I had more opportunities to play for Mexico,” Olmos, who is fluent in English, Spanish and German, said during a one-to-one virtual interview on Wednesday. The Mexican Tennis Federation approached her at age 16 and offered her a place on the Mexico Fed Cup team. She jumped at the opportunity. “I wanted to contribute and raise the level of Mexico and put the country on the world map. I love to play any international competition that I can.”

After playing collegiate tennis at the University of Southern California and graduating in 2016, Olmos decided to focus on a pro career while maintaining a residence in Los Angeles. While she’s struggled in playing singles, where she’s currently ranked No. 485, it’s in doubles that Olmos has flourished. She’s currently ranked No. 54. In 2019, she became the first Mexican player to win a WTA title.

This week at the WTA 250 Abierto Zapopan 2021 in Guadalajara, the 5-foot-7, right-handed hitting Olmos received a wild card into the singles qualifying draw and beat Mayer Sherif of Egypt and fellow Mexican Marcela Zacarias to earn a berth in the main draw. Then, she promptly lost in the first round to No. 1 seed Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, ranked 46th, 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-2 on Monday evening, but received great support from the crowd.

However, Olmos has fared much better in the doubles draw, where she has advanced into Saturday’s final paired with Desirae Krawczyk of the United States, who is ranked No. 22. They’re seeded first and have strung together a trio of wins to face No. 3 seeds Ellen Perez and Astra Sharma from Australia for the title. Olmos and Krawczyk have won two titles together, at Nottingham, England, in 2019, and last year in Acapulco, Mexico.

When Tennis TourTalk asked Olmos what makes a good doubles player and a good doubles team, she beamed a smile, then said: “I think what makes a good doubles player is someone who is versatile and can adjust to playing with different kinds of people.

“I like to think I am one of those people and I can adapt to who I play with. Honestly, you have to find somebody whose style fits yours. I think being able to adapt and being open to trying out new plays and playing different with other players is important. Also, being open and positive and making your partner feel their best.”

Last month, Olmos reached the Australian Open doubles quarterfinals paired with Sharon Fichman of Canada, who has been her regular partner this year compiling a 3-3 record. “For me, it was one of my best personal achievements, it was one of my better results.

“I still think two of my biggest accomplishments were last year when I won doubles in Acapulco and second, when we beat Uruguay in Fed Cup and it led us into the World Group. I think helping Mexico achieve this is something more historic and important, but making the Australian Open quarterfinals was pretty cool, too.”