Eugenie Bouchard absent from Canada's Fed Cup tie roster vs. Czechs
Tennis star reached quarter-finals at Australian Open
Tennis Canada is still holding out hope that its top player Eugenie Bouchard will be on court for an historic Fed Cup tie next week against the Czech Republic.
Vice-president Eugene Lapierre said Bouchard, ranked seventh in the world, has yet to confirm whether or not she will play against the defending Fed Cup champions Feb. 7-8 in Quebec City.
A three-woman team announced Wednesday did not include the Westmount, Que., native, but they have until two hours before the draw on Feb. 6 to finalize their roster and add a fourth player.
Bouchard's absence would leave little star power in the best-of-five series. The Czechs will be without their top two players, as world No. 4 Petra Kvitova and No. 16 Lucie Safarova are not on their team roster.
Eugenie's demonstrated in the past that she likes playing in the Fed Cup. So I'm sure her decision will be the good one.- Tennis Canada vice-president Eugene Lapierre
It will be Canada's first appearance in the elite World Group I. Bouchard did much to get them there by going 4-0 in wins over Serbia and Slovakia in 2014.
"It's the first time we're there and we'd like to go to the next round and make it to the semifinals," said Lapierre. "But Eugenie knows that, and she's demonstrated in the past that she likes playing in the Fed Cup. So I'm sure her decision will be the good one."
If Bouchard opts out, Canada will likely go with a young prospect as its fourth player.
Bouchard reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open this week before falling in straight sets to Maria Sharapova.
After the defeat at the first Grand Slam of the season, Bouchard was asked if she was looking forward to Fed Cup. She replied that she didn't know if she would be playing or not, adding she planned to visit with family and take some time off to rest.
A reporter followed up by asking why she wouldn't play.
"That's something I was going to decide after the tournament," Bouchard said. "You know, my tournament ended like half an hour ago, so I'm still going to talk to my team and make the best decision for me if I can play or not."
It is a busy time for Bouchard, who is entered in an indoor tournament the week after the Fed Cup in Belgium.
Lapierre said she may be able to do both because she is the top-ranked player in the Belgian event and may not have to play a match there until later in the week. Plus the Fed Cup is also indoors and would be good practice.
He added that Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau is confident Bouchard will play.
The Canadian roster includes Toronto's Sharon Fichman (No. 135), 17-year-old prospect Francoise Abanda of Montreal (No. 202) and doubles specialist Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa (ranked No. 60 in doubles).
The top-ranked Czechs will be represented by Karolina Pliskova (No. 20), Tereza Smitkova (No. 68), Denisa Allertova (No. 107), and Lucie Hradecka (No. 142).
The Czechs have been crowned Fed Cup champions three of the last four years.
"Even without Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova, the Czech team is still very dangerous," Bruneau said in a statement. "They chose to go with youth. Karolina Pliskova and Tereza Smitkova are two rising stars in women's tennis and they deserve all of our respect."
Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., was on the Canadian team last year but she's still recovering from shoulder surgery.
Lapierre said that even without Bouchard, Canada has a chance against a Czech side lacking Fed Cup experience.
"It's always better to have your number one player, but that said, of the three named, two have played numerous Fed Cups," he said. "For Francoise Abanda, it would be her first Fed Cup and it's a tremendous opportunity for her to shine.
"She hasn't blossomed completely yet, but she has the talent, and playing in front of her crowd in Quebec City would be fantastic."
The Czechs have a perfect 5-0 record against Canada in Fed Cup play. Their last meeting came in 2002.
The winner will advance to the Fed Cup semifinals and keep a place in World Group I for 2016. The loser will play a World Group I playoff to remain among the top eight countries in the world.