By Steve Keating
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Eugenie Bouchard slumped to a first-round defeat at the U.S. Open on Tuesday but the Canadian might yet leave Flushing Meadows a big winner with her lawsuit against the grand slam and United States Tennis Association still to hit the courts.
Last year Bouchard exited the tournament under equally unhappy circumstances when she slipped on a wet locker room floor after a mixed doubles match, sustaining a concussion that forced her to withdraw from her fourth-round singles contest.
The 22-year-old Canadian, once ranked fifth in the world, has since filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Open and the USTA.
According to a report in the New York Times, Bouchard’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, has indicated he is seeking “millions and millions” in damages. The winner of the U.S. Open this year will take home $3.5 million.
Bouchard, however, says she is completely focused on what is happening on the tennis court and has left legal matters to her lawyers.
“I am 100 percent focused on tennis and I have lawyers who are working on the case and I don’t think about it often at all, maybe once a month when they call me,” Bouchard told reporters after her loss.
“I’m disappointed with what I think happened so I have to fight for what I think is right.”
This year, Bouchard had no one to blame but herself for her first-round stumble as she was tripped up 6-3 3-6 6-2 by 20-year-old Czech Katerina Siniakova, who registered a first ever win at the U.S. Open.
Despite the looming legal battle, Bouchard said she had been treated well by USTA officials but conceded that the situation was an awkward one.
“If I sit down and think about it, yeah, it is definitely a strange situation but something that is so far back in my mind I don’t think about it on a daily basis at all,” said Bouchard.
“Obviously being here it has crossed my mind but beside that, it has nothing to do with my day-to-day life.”
In 2014, Bouchard arrived at the year’s final grand slam on the cusp of tennis super stardom.
Having reached the final at Wimbledon and the last four at both the Australian and French Open, Bouchard rode a wave of grand slam momentum into the U.S. Open where she was seeded seventh and hyped as the next face of women’s tennis.
But even before her concussion last year, Bouchard’s star had already begun to fade behind a string of lackluster results that she claims was exacerbated by the accident that caused her to cut short last season.
“It was very difficult for me,” Bouchard said. “I tried to come back and still had symptoms and probably tried to come back too soon because I love playing and I wanted to play.
“It (the accident) ended my year and I had a really rough couple of months.”
(Changes exasperated to exacerbated in 14th para)
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)