MONTREAL – Eugenie Bouchard’s homecoming turned into a power shortage on and off the court.
The rising star from Westmount, Que., perhaps crushed by the fame that her success in grand slam tournaments this year loaded upon her 20-year-old shoulders, fell 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 to unheralded American Shelby Rogers in the second round of the US$2.44 million women’s Rogers Cup on Tuesday night.
The night match was played under lights powered by a generator, as a outage in the area around Uniprix Stadium that began in the early afternoon had not been repaired by the end of the play. Organizers expect power to be restored by Wednesday morning.
Bouchard, who has rocketed into the top 10 in WTA rankings, was greeted with a standing ovation from the centre court crowd and a chant from the Genie Army fan club that was flown in from Australia to see her perform in her hometown.
Then Bouchard laid an egg on the court, spraying what are normally easy shots long and wide, with body language that suggested she’d rather crawl into a cave.
The world’s eighth-ranked player righted herself in the second set, using her mix of crisp groundstrokes to keep Rogers off balance, but then slipped into the same funk in the third.
She had been praised for her ability to play through pressure while reaching at least the semifinals of all three grand slam events so far this year, but at home, and noticeably rusty, she admitted it took her down.
“I’ve definitely noticed a change in my life since the beginning of the year, even more so since Wimbledon,” said Bouchard, who was playing her first match since reaching the final at the All England Club last month.
“It’s just something I’m going to have to get used to. Especially coming to Montreal it is definitely a little crazier than any other tournament. I felt like I was dealing with things well, but I still have that sense of the pressure and things like that. It’s a good position to be in. It’s one I want to be in. But I’ll just have to deal with it better.”
The defeat left the tournament without its star attraction, although top players like Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova remain in contention.
With a loss by Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que. 6-1, 6-7 (4), 6-2 to Garbine Muguruza, and defeats Monday by Francoise Abanda and Aleksandra Wozniak, all four Canadians in the 56-woman draw are gone.
Tournament director Eugene Lapierre felt for Bouchard, who raised interest in the sport to new levels.
“Of course it’s disappointing, but I believe the most disappointed person is Eugenie herself,” said Lapierre. “We could see that when she came off the court.
“As for the tournament, it’s already a major success this year, thanks to the vibes she brought and all the fantastic results she had before the tournament. We have already broken the record of 175,000 spectators (for a one-week tournament). Now it will be up to the other great world players to make the show.”
The match started an hour later than planned due to the power outage, which saw the scoreboards go off, the chair umpire’s microphone go silent and left the players clubhouse in the dark with no hot water. Play went on despite the inconvenience.
Bouchard just wanted to move on and fix her sights on her next tournament and on the U.S. Open at the end of August.
“It’s just a match,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been playing really well this whole year. So it’s normal to have a few ups and downs. I’m going to learn a lot, but still be happy about life.”
The win put Rogers, a qualifier ranked 113th in the world, into the third round of the hard-court event. It also left the American 2-0 against Bouchard, who she beat in a lower-level tournament in 2011.
“It was cool to see the support she has here and it’s fun to see that much support for tennis,” Rogers said. “I knew what I was getting into so I was prepared for it. I hope that doesn’t happen too often, but I know she’s a mega superstar up here.”
Now attention will turn to the established stars, like world No. 1 and top seed Serena Williams, who is to play her first match Wednesday against Samantha Stosur, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Monica Puig.
Fourth-seeded Sharapova opens against Muguruza, while second-seeded Petra Kvitova faces Casey Dellacqua, a 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 winner over Kirsten Flipkens.
Former world No. 1 Venus Williams rebounded from a shaky second set to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in a first round match.
Williams, who has played the Rogers Cup in Toronto before but never in Montreal, was on court when the power went off.
“It was like going back to the southern California juniors,” she said. “But I tried to think of it as positive, like ‘this will be just like practice, so go ahead and relax. It will be a practice match.’ You try to play those mind games when you’re out there.”
It was an even first round match, with Pavlyuchenkova ranked 24th and Williams 26th.
“We’re both very good players and she’s a dangerous player for the top players as well because she can do everything well when she’s on,” said Williams. “It felt good to win the match and hopefully gain some momentum for the rest of the week.”
Williams is on the same side of the draw as her sister.
“I would love if we both got to the semifinals,” said Venus. “I fell a little short last week (at Stanford), but that’s why I’m playing these matches this summer. I’m getting better rhythm as I go.”
Lucky loser Elena Vesnina stepped in as a replacement for the ailing Andrea Petkovic and posted a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Camila Giorgi. Petkovic, the 16th seed, was unable to play because she was sick.
“I pushed it back until the end and really tried to get healthy,” she said in a statement. “But I had a temperature and a fever and it’s too risky to play like that in these kinds of conditions.
“I’m very disappointed.”
She plans to rest in bed for two or three days and try to be ready for a tournament next week in Cincinnati.
Another lucky loser, Karolina Pliskova, beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 6-1.
Caroline Wozniacki, seeded 11th, had no trouble downing Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 6-1.
It was more trouble getting ready for the match in the dark.
“It’s just so different: Everywhere, in the locker-room, it’s so dark. We have to use our flashlights and phones. The water is freezing, as well,” she said.
In other matches, third seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, 6-4, and 14th seed Carla Suarez Navarro defeated Bojana Jovanovski 6-4, 6-3.
Veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova retired from her match with Madison Keys due to an injury.