Despite struggles on court, Canada glad to have Bouchard back for Fed Cup

MONTREAL — Canada is delighted to have Eugenie Bouchard back with its Federation Cup squad even if the 2014 Wimbledon finalist has hit a rough patch in her career.

Bouchard, whose WTA ranking has tumbled to No. 117, is to play this week when Canada faces Ukraine in a World Group II playoff — a must-win series to avoid being relegated to the American Zone next year.

Ukraine’s top player, fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina, is not expected to play in the best-of-five indoor series Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s big because we need all our top players,” Tennis Canada senior vice-president Eugene Lapierre said Monday. “On paper, even if Svitolina would not be playing, I don’t think we’re favoured to beat Ukraine, so it’s important that (Bouchard) is there and I think it’s important for her, too, to start somewhere.

“To win some matches. And I think it’s the right time.”

The 24-year-old Bouchard was riding high in 2014 when she reached at least the semifinals of three grand slam tournaments, rising to a career-high fifth in world rankings. She also helped Canada reach the top level of the Fed Cup, World Group I, by winning both singles matches against the Czech Republic.

But the Westmount, Que. native hasn’t played in Fed Cup since 2015 against Romania as she struggled with her game. In January, Bouchard dropped out of the top-100 for the first time since April, 2013.

She has also reportedly had off-court woes, losing sponsors and splitting with her agent.

“She’s always had a very good attitude with the national team,” said Lapierre. “She’s the leader of that team.

“When she comes, the girls love her. I’m not afraid of that at all.”

Bouchard remains Canada’s top-ranked woman. Her teammates this week include Francoise Abanda of Montreal (127th), Bianca Andreescu of Thornhill, Ont. (197th) and Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa, who is ranked 10th in doubles.

Despite missing Svitolina, Ukraine still has quality players in Leisa Tsurenko (No. 41) and veteran Kateryna Bondarenko (78th). The Ukrainian team is to be announced Wednesday.

Canada elected to play on an indoor hard court with capacity for 1,800 spectators at its national training centre. Lapierre said there was a good ambience when Canada won at the same venue against Kazakhstan in April, 2017, with Abanda winning both of her singles matches.

Tennis Canada announced that Uniprix, a Quebec pharmacy chain, opted to end sponsorship of the Montreal stadium after 15 years. It will now be called IGA Stadium. They did not say how long the agreement with the supermarket company was for or how much it was worth.

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