Can Eugenie Bouchard Revive Her Season?


Aug 11, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Eugeneie Bouchard of Canada returns a ball to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland (not pictured) during their second round match at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament at the Aviva Centre. Belinda Bencic of Switzerland won 6-0 7-5 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Eugenie Bouchard and the Long Path Back to the Top

Last year, Eugenie Bouchard was the sweetheart of the WTA. It was impossible to escape the Canadian. Her face pervaded news outlets and television screens, amidst a string of outstanding grand slam performances and a plethora of endorsement deals. The climax of Genie’s rise to the top was her appearance in the 2014 Wimbledon final. Although she was the victim of a straight sets drubbing at the hands of Petra Kvitova, she managed to win the hearts of tennis fans and casual sports fans, alike. It was truly a fairytale run for the young Canadian.

But like all fairytales, Genie’s story hasn’t transpired without its fair share of lowlights.

Her 2015 has been particularly middling. She currently possesses an unenviable 8-15 record, winning just 2 matches since Indian Wells in March. Her current ranking stands at 25, falling dramatically after Genie failed to defend her Wimbledon finals run from last year.

It’s not unusual for players to experience a downfall after a rise as rapid as Bouchard’s. World no. 3 Simona Halep is currently in the midst of what can only be described as a slump following her phenomenal 2014 and early-2015 campaigns. Similarly, Ana Ivanovic fell to world no. 64 in 2010, two years removed from her French Open triumph.

It’s easy to wonder how professional athletes can ‘allow’ themselves to become undone after announcing themselves to the world. Is it the pressure of matching past performances? Is it the fact that opponents now specifically train and prepare to best diminish their game styles? Does it stem from a lack of concentration or motivation? Or does it occur from a combination of these?

Regardless of why Genie is currently in a state of seeming disrepair, the question remains as to whether she can once again be the determined, popular woman who took the WTA by storm last year.

There’s no question that a lack of focus on court has hindered her game and prevented her from emerging victorious in winnable matches. Genie strikes the ball incredibly early, and unless she maintains complete concentration she runs the risk of spraying unforced errors. It’s a style of play that just doesn’t come together when a player is distracted by off-court matters or is lacking the confidence to commit to their shots. In her fourth round match at Indian Wells against Lesia Tsurenko, Genie seemed disgruntled and indifferent, Her unforced error total, across three sets, amounted to 72.

Another caveat underlining many of her matches this year has been her inability closing out matches. When Bouchard has been able to challenge her opponents across the net and near the endpoint of matches, she’s still struggled to claim victory. In Rome, Genie twice served for her third round match against Carla Suarez Navarro but faded on important points. In Madrid, she claimed the first set of her first round match against Barbora Strycova, 6-0 and went up an early break in the second. She lost the match in three sets.

On top of that, she has also suffered from injury this year. Her first round loss at Wimbledon was punctuated by the revelation that Genie was enduring an abdominal strain.

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Since Wimbledon, Genie has only played one match: yesterday in Toronto. Seedless after her fall out of the top 20, Genie faced off against Belinda Bencic, falling 6-0, 5-7, 6-2. Although a loss is never desirable for a professional, there were some positives to take from Genie’s performance. Down 6-0, 5-3, most of her home crowd would have forgiven her for thinking that victory was out of her grasp, especially given her recent performances.

But that was when Bouchard’s grit and dedication shone. She produced some of the tennis that fans know her capable of to grind out the second set 7-5. Yes, she lost the match, but her willingness to fight back from an ostensibly unyielding position speaks well of her chances for the rest of the year.

It’s also worth mentioning Genie’s pressure to perform in front of her home crowd. The stress of playing in Canada obvious affected her last year, as she fell to Shelby Rogers, who stood just inside the top 100. Yesterday, Bouchard fell to Belinda Bencic, a top-20 player high on confidence after a sensational grass court season. Given her quality opponent and the expectations placed on her, a loss wasn’t unexpected.

Off-court she can make some questionable decisions, but that’s to be expected of someone her age. Given her off-court antics Genie is somewhat a polarising figure and, admittedly, I’m not her biggest fan. On-court, however, she’s a great role model for young tennis fans. A major aspect of her winning formula last year was her tenacity and refusal to give up: admirable qualities for any tennis player.

She’s also a great asset to the women’s tour in general. Not only does she bring in viewers to the spectator-light WTA circuit, but she’s also an entertaining player to watch. When her game is working, she can strike lightning-fast winners from every position on the court. As Genie takes the ball early, it gives her rallies a breathless, intense quality, as opposed to the plodding nature of the exchanges between more passive players.

Looking forward, there’s every chance that Bouchard can return to the top-10 player she is capable of being. Genie isn’t being slaughtered on court. She’s losing most of her matches by a matter of points. Learning how to trust her unquestionable skills on court and remain systematic while closing out matches should supplement her confidence and see her winning record rise.

It may take a while (probably extending into the 2016 season), and it will likely require her to compete alongside lower-ranked players in the less prestigious tournaments offered by the WTA. But, given Genie’s demeanour and drive, and history, it’s difficult to see Bouchard down forever.

Will Eugenie Bouchard Turn Her 2015 Season Around?

Do you think that Bouchard can turn her 2015 season around? Let us know in the comments below!

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