Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard helps in Fed Cup
Fed Cup – An international.tennis tournament took place this past weekend between Canada and the Ukraine at Stade IGA (formerly Stade Uniprix) here in Montreal.
Part of the Fed Cup World Group stage II; team Canada brought out their big gun in the nation’s highest ranked female player – Greenfield Park native Eugenie Bouchard. Without her, this story would have had an entirely different outcome.
The Canadians came into the weekend on the limp, having lost the services of Francois Abanda in the practice session to a bizarre injury suffered on a fall. This opened the door for 17-year-old up and coming prospect Bianca Andreescu – but the drama had yet to fully unfold.
Andreescu began the tournament against a formidable foe in the Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko – and was playing well, taking the first set in convincing fashion. The second saw a turning of the tides and it became evident that something wasn’t quite right with the youngster. She began to bend and crouch between plays, and lost the second frame. Her decline continued into the final foray where she collapsed after giving up nine straight points to Tsurenko. She lay on the court for several minutes before the umpire deemed the match forfeit and awarded the match to the Ukrainian who had come over to check on her injured opponent by this time. Andreescu left in a wheelchair but with spirits high; waiving and giving the thumbs up to the applause of the fans.
Bouchard took on Kateryna Bondarenko in the opening days other match and quickly asserted her dominance in the match. The local star has been having a bit of a rough time of late, starting the year with a losing record of 4-6 – but if this day, she was firing on all cylinders. Winning in convincing fashion, the first day came to an end with the two nations equal.
Bouchard was first to the court to face Tsurenko in a longer day two – and again looked great. Tsurenko though, was a much more challenging contestant and the match was a back and forth, tightly battled affair. For a moment, it looked as if history might repeat, as Tsurenko clutched at her thigh and muttered something to herself in her language – she, like Andreescu, was cramping up. On she went, chugging down an energy drink during break – for the electrolytes. Bouchard too, was suffering cramps – but on they went.
Down to the wire it went, each player with a win to their name and no clear winner in the waning moments of the third – we headed to extra time. Still close until the final ball was played, Bouchard emerged with the win.
Gabriela Dabrowski took to the court in the spot designated for Francois Abanda – who was to undergo an exam on her eye to see if she would be able to participate in the play. Apparently the injury was severe enough to prevent her return to action. Dabrowski, who has penciled in to play the doubles match alongside Abanda – would now play the single match followed by the doubles tilt.
Dabrowski is a highly ranked and successful doubles player but has enjoyed far less joy when going it alone. This day would be no different. Her opponent, Kateryna Bondarenko, was by far the better of the two and would equally the series at two a piece; meaning everything would come down to the deciding doubles contest.
Dabrowski had a half an hour to rest up before getting back on court, where cramping had been an issue all weekend; and up until the moment team Canada took to the court – nobody knew who her partner would even be. Surprisingly enough, Bianca Andresssca strolled in alongside Dabrowski – she who had suffered the injury the day before, and now sporting a bandaged left leg. (The medical team had been supporting the right leg as she was wheeled off court the previous day).
The Ukraine also had a player in her second shift of the day; and also with a mere half-hour delay. Kateryna Bondarenko however, would have a fresh Olga Savchuk at her side and playing for the first time on the weekend.
Team Canada stormed out of the gate and easily took the first set – but from there on in, the Ukrainians were fierce competition and they were not going to give up. They battled hard and held off a Canadian onslaught late in the set to tie things at one a piece.
It would come down to the final round. Canada were up and needed just a single score to end the series; but the Ukrainians kept coming – leveling the score and taking the game. Again, Canada mounted a lead and were one ball away from victory – and again, the Ukrainians fought to stay alive – and then it happened.
Dabrowski found a gap and stuck the ball through it. Canada had won! Andreescu threw up her arms and those that had remained in the stadium after a long, long day of tennis, rejoiced.
Andreescu and Dabrowski, joined by Eugenie Bouchard and Francois Abanda, trotted around the court with the Maple Leaf flying gloriously above their heads. It had been a hard fought win on an exciting and highly dramatic weekend.