NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eugenie Bouchard was back on center court at the U.S. Open on Wednesday, the United States Tennis Association saying it held no grudges against the Canadian who is suing the organization for negligence over injuries suffered in a locker-room fall.
Usually the marquee matchups of the day are reserved for Arthur Ashe Stadium and a contest between two players barely ranked inside the top 100 seemed an unconventional choice - even more so given the lawsuit now before the courts.
“I was surprised,” admitted the 76th-ranked Bouchard following a 7-6(2) 6-1 thrashing by 89th-ranked Russian Evgeniya Rodina. “But it’s always an amazing opportunity to play on the biggest tennis court in the world.”
There was a time not long ago when an appearance on Arthur Ashe by the 23-year-old would have been met with excitement rather than raised eyebrows.
Ranked as high as world number five, Bouchard was hailed as the next big thing in women’s tennis in 2014 when she reached the Wimbledon final and the semi-finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
But now Bouchard, winner of just two matches since the French Open, needs wildcards to gain direct entry to the WTA’s top events, making her clash with Rodina, winless since early June, an odd choice to open day three at Flushing Meadows.
On a sunny morning the once raucous Genie’s Army was nowhere to be seen with only a small crowd sprinkled across the cavernous venue while the sprawling grounds were buzzing with world number four Elina Svitolina, Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios and other seeds all in action.
“Specifically, with Bouchard we are comfortable with our decision of putting her on Ashe, there are a lot of matches to schedule today, things could have gone many different ways,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier told Reuters.
“I think she still is popular. She does seem to be a fan favorite.”
The USTA and Bouchard have settled into an uneasy relationship with the Canadian’s lawsuit hanging over the U.S. Open.
Bouchard’s attorneys in May accused the USTA of erasing security camera footage of her fall in the locker-room at the 2015 U.S. Open, which resulted in a concussion.
Her lawyers said the accident was caused by a cleaning substance and the injury forced her out of the 2015 U.S. Open and subsequent tournaments.
“Certainly we don’t hold any grudges,” Widmaier said. “What happens outside this tournament is irrelevant to us as we build the schedule.”
Given their current strained truce Bouchard’s return to Arthur Ashe did little to spark memories of better days.
“We’re still in the process,” she said. “I’m able to concentrate on the tennis when I’m here but I definitely have bad memories from here two years ago.”
Editing by Ed Osmond