A war of words has broken out between Genie Bouchard's lawyer and the United States Tennis Association on the eve of the US Open.
On Sept. 4, 2015, Bouchard slipped and fell in the physiotherapy room at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center and sustained a concussion, which led to her withdrawal from the singles, doubles and mixed doubles competitions at the US Open. The concussion symptoms lingered and Bouchard did not complete a match the rest of the season. The 22-year-old is now suing the USTA.
Bouchard's attorney, Benedict Morelli, told Daniel Kaplan of the SportsBusiness Journal that settlement talks had stalled due to the hardball tactics employed by the USTA. When Kaplan asked the USTA to respond, the association didn't hold back.
"It is truly unfortunate that a year after her accident, Genie's focus is on matters other than playing to her best ability," according to the USTA statement sent to Kaplan. "As you probably know, her lawyers asked for an extension; the USTA on the other hand, has remained ready, willing and able to bring the litigation to a conclusion as expeditiously as is possible whether through settlement discussions or a fully litigated process."
When reached late Friday afternoon, Bouchard's lawyer hit back.
"The USTA should walk the walk, not just talk the talk," Benedict Morelli said in a statement emailed to TSN. "If the USTA wants to actually support its player like they say, they should concede liability and take responsibility for the accident they caused. We gave the USTA's lawyers the opportunity to do so but they refused."
Once No. 5 in the world, Bouchard's ranking fell to No. 61 at one point this season, but she has slowly worked her way back up and heads to the US Open ranked No. 40. Bouchard has not openly discussed the lawsuit this season and it never seemed to emerge as a major talking point until now.
In an interview with Peter Bodo of ESPN, Morelli suggested the USTA wasn't really serious about getting the issue settled before trial.
"They have indicated that they wanted to settle," Morelli told ESPN. "We didn't talk specific-specific, but let's just say their side of the conversation was unrealistic."
Morelli is expected to join TSN's US Open coverage live on Tuesday to address the situation in greater detail.
Bouchard will face No. 73 Kateřina Siniaková in the first round at this year's US Open. It will be the first meeting between the two players. The USTA insists the lawsuit will not impact the way Bouchard is treated at the season's final major.
"We continue to support Genie as best we can, including by giving her a wildcard into the Western & Southern Open a few weeks ago," the USTA spokesperson told Kaplan. "The litigation will have no impact on how Genie is treated at the US Open in any manner."
TSN reporter Sara Orlesky is in New York and will be filing a story on Bouchard for SportsCentre on Sunday.