PARIS – Genie Bouchard has a secret weapon at this year's French Open: her grandmother.
"It’s her first French Open so she’s really been enjoying it," the 25-year-old said as grandma Huguette Martin videoed the interview on her phone from a few feet away. "She's literally taking selfies with players and always taking pictures of me too, which is annoying, but it's been fun and relaxed and we'll go enjoy the city as well."
The outlook for Bouchard at the year's second major isn't particularly bright. Plagued by an abdominal injury, the Montrealer hasn't played on tour since losing in the first round of qualifying at the Miami Open in March. On top of that, Bouchard recently split with coach Michael Joyce. But the 2014 Roland Garros semifinalist seemed far from gloomy on Friday while practising with Venus Williams. The session ended with an impromptu photo shoot starring Martin.
"We took selfies for like 15 minutes. We were joking that we spent more time taking selfies than practising, which is not true," Bouchard said, well aware of her social media critics. "Relax! We practised for like an hour and a half. My grandma loves tennis so she obviously loves watching Venus and Venus was so, so sweet. I like Venus a lot and we were all taking pictures and having fun and posing and just being girls, I guess."
Bouchard has adopted an easygoing approach in Paris where she's getting guidance from Canadian Fed Cup captain Heidi El Tabakh.
"She's a good friend of mine as well so it’s really been relaxing and nice and a no-pressure kind of trip so far so I’m happy," Bouchard said. "I'm actually enjoying this time right now (without a coach) and I feel like I take more responsibility when I’m on my own and I think that’s a good thing for me so no rush for now, but definitely something I’ll address in the near future."
Bouchard, who arrived in Paris ranked No. 77, decided to take a break from tour because the abdominal issue just wouldn't go away.
"It's been a recurring injury for me," she noted. "It’s kind of like my Achilles' heel. It actually restarted in Dubai this year so I was trying to manage it for the big tournaments, but then I decided, you know, it was kind of a slower time of the season, try and take some time to heal it ... I've been ramping up my training since I've been here and playing more sets and practice sets with the girls so it has gotten a bit sore, because sets are definitely different than training and drills at home so we'll see how it goes."
Bouchard reached the quarterfinals at her season-opening event in Auckland, before falling in the second round of the Australian Open against Serena Williams. That was followed by a quarterfinal run at a lower-level event (125K Series) at Newport Beach, a qualifying loss in Doha, a second-round defeat against Simona Halep in Dubai, an opening round loss at Indian Wells and then the setback in Miami.
"It definitely is a grind," she admitted. "I felt like I played a lot of tournaments at the beginning of the season. I went straight to Newport from Australia so I didn’t mind skipping a couple extra tournaments (to heal the injury). Yeah, it was nice to actually be in one spot for more than one week. We’re literally in a different city every week so (it was nice) to actually feel like I'm at home."
The former World No. 5 is no longer the top Canadian on tour with Bianca Andreescu winning at Indian Wells and surging up to No. 22 this season. Bouchard doesn't seem to mind that the spotlight has shifted.
"I've really been trying to not put too much pressure on myself. I’m my own worst critic so it's just about accepting that nobody’s perfect and appreciating the good things and not focusing so much on the bad things and realizing life is good. If I lose a tennis match, it’s just a tennis match. My job is to entertain, it’s not to save lives. If I mess up, you know, I’m not like a doctor where if you mess up then bad stuff might happen so, you know what? It’s all good," she said with a smile.
Bouchard is the underdog in her first round match against No. 27 seed Lesia Tsurenko. The pair split two previous meetings with Bouchard winning the most recent showdown, a thrilling 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) result in Fed Cup play last year.
"We've played twice and both times we've had very physical matches especially last year at the Fed Cup (a two-hour-and-39 minute match) and so I’m just hoping it’s not a marathon like that, because we were both dying at the end. I expect a really tough battle, she’s consistent and she has a good game so I’m just going to go for it."
Regardless of what happens on the court this trip will be a special one for Bouchard, who is creating some memories with her grandmother.
"I’m approaching the French Open as a tournament to just try to play good tennis, really enjoy it, enjoy trying to feel good on the court and whatever happens happens," she said. "I’m going to go visit the Louvre no matter what."