Tennis Canada women prepare for Romania in Fed Cup
Update (April 17): Fed Cup draw results & photos at the bottom of the story
Canada’s best female tennis players will face Romania in Fed Cup this weekend in a bid to remain among the world’s elite. The team’s top player, Eugenie Bouchard, is also looking ahead to the Olympic Games.
“Until last February I played in all Fed Cup (ties) I was invited to,” Bouchard said this week prior to practice in Montreal, where a best-of-five contest against Romania this weekend will determine if Canada remains in the elite World Group of eight nations for the 2016 season. A loss could lead to greater distance from the best.
“(I’m) always proud to represent my country. I know I have to play another time in 2015 or 2016 to be eligible to participate in the Olympics. That was part of my decision.”
Long before packing for Rio begins, Canada finds itself on defence after dropping the Fed Cup season opening tie to the Czech Republic in February. In the knockout format, that loss relegated Canada to fight for its place in the top group next year. If Canada doesn’t beat Romania, it’ll drop to World Group II.
Bouchard missed the tie against the powerful Czechs (who are the reigning Fed Cup champions), raising questions about her commitment in some circles, although Tennis Canada has always remained supportive of the 21-year old world number seven’s personal WTA ambitions, which often conflicts with the Fed Cup schedule.
Unfortunately for Bouchard, she comes into the weekend in less-than-spectacular form, having dropped three straight singles matches, including early exits in Miami and Charleston in the WTA Tour. That has raised new questions.
“I made a big change in changing coaches. I think there’s an adjustment period. I’m not sure if I expected that, I thought it would be normal. All coaches are different and there is a big difference in styles between Sam (Sumyk) and my previous coach.”
“Sam is very direct and that’s a good thing. He tells me what I need to improve and what I need to do… the biggest adjustment for me is to go from a familiar voice for eight years and get used to a new one.”
While Canada has its highest ranked player in Montreal, Romania will be without world no. 3 Simona Halep.
“For us it’s a great thing,” Bouchard said of not having to face a fellow top-10 player, although she was quick to acknowledge Romanian depth. “I know the team is still very strong and they have a lot of great players.”
Romania has sent Irina-Camelia Begu (no. 36 in singles), Alexandra Dulgheru (62) and Andreea Mitu (107). Those three laudable hitters are joined by Raluca Olaru, the 62nd ranked doubles player on tour.
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The format for the best-of-five sees four straight singles matches (two each on Saturday and Sunday), then should it still require a tiebreak, a fifth rubber – in doubles – closes out the weekend on Sunday.
Along with Bouchard, Canada consists of Sharon Fichman (205th in singles), and 18-year old Francoise Abanda (260). Joining that trio is Gabriela Dabrowski, who is Canada’s best doubles hope at no. 43 and also carries the highest Canadian singles ranking behind Bouchard at no. 181.
Like Bouchard, Abanda will be playing in Montreal in front of family and friends.
“I’m proud to be able to play in Montreal, to represent Canada. I think this will be another good experience for me and I hope I’ll be able to do my best,” the teenager, who made her Fed Cup debut this year, said on Wednesday.
Fellow Montrealer Bouchard said she too looks forward to the home support.
“We’re playing at home where I grew up. It’s going to be fun to play in front of this crowd.”
The Fed Cup draw took place on Friday, where Abanda’s name was picked, meaning she will be the first Canadian up against Begu in a Canada 2 versus Romania 1 matchup. That will follow Bouchard versus Dulgheru. The singles opponents will switch on Sunday and if needed, Dabrowski and Fishman will take on Mitu and Olaru in doubles.
Live tennis broadcast will begin on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on OLN.