In 2014 one of THE success stories in tennis period, was the rise or Eugenie Bouchard. The Canadian captured plenty of attention, almost as much as when Serena Williams would lose a match, but the 2015 season has been an unmitigated disaster for the 21 year old from Montreal.
She started the 2014 season by reaching the semis of the Australian Open and the development of the “Genie Army” fan club added to the focus that was dawning on her. She then made the semis of the French Open and barely a month later was in the final of Wimbledon being watched by Princes Eugenie who she was named after. Bouchard’s mother is an unabashed Royalist and named all her children after members of the British Royal family.
Things started to go a bit awry when she played in Canada. I wrote here on wearetennis.bnpparibas before she played in Montreal in August that the attention on her would not yield the results she would want. After the year she had enjoyed at the majors, producing that sort of tennis was not going to be easy in front of an expectant how crowd and an early loss would be on the cards.
True enough it was a shocker as she lost in her first match to American qualifier Shelby Rogers 6-0 in the third. For the record Rogers lost the next round 6-1, 6-0 to Caro Wozniacki and this year has won just four matches.
Bouchard’s record in 2015 is not much better than Rogers. Of the eleven events she has played this year she has failed to win a match in eight of them and to date has just one career title (Nurenburg). For all the hype surrounding her results at the majors last year, it should be remembered that she failed to win a match at ten events, but it’s a point that seems to have been overlooked.
So, what’s the problem with Eugenie Bouchard? Listed recently as the world’s most marketable athlete, which was a ridiculous claim considering the criteria used (that was addressed in a story here on wearetennis.bnpparibas), maybe it is that area that has become consuming for her and taken her focus away for the important stuff, or maybe parting from her longtime coach Nick Saviano was a major bearing.
Bouchard herself is sort of at a loss to explain the slump, a slump I forecast on wearetennis.bnpparibas when I previewed the 2015 year. The concerning issue is that she doesn’t know why the losses are piling up. She recently referred to the first round losses which lead to extra practice time as a “pretty tiring routine”. She also didn’t know what she and coach Sam Sumyk (formerly with Victoria Azarenka) were going to work on but hoped it was “stuff that helps me get better”. That is a strange mindset to be in for a professional athlete.
In a conference call ESPN commentators Chris Evert and John McEnroe offered their opinions on the Bouchard bump in the road.
“I think Nick Saviano was really good for her. I think he was a very positive influence. I don't know what happened. I'm not privy to what happened there. But I think that probably has had an effect on her,” Evert said. “She did so well at the Grand Slams last year, but we have to remember, though, she also lost first round in nine events last year. It wasn't like she had a sterling year. She had a great 12 months. She did well in the Grand Slams, but she did not do well the rest of the year.
“It seems to me that it is a mental thing because she seems to be hitting the ball fine. She's had a lot of three-set matches. She gets into a position to win or to finish the match in three sets, and she can't finish, she can't close. That to me is more of a mental thing with her. There's only one piece for her, that's to be aggressive, to be arrogant out there, and to believe like she's the best. We heard from her press conferences that tone all last year. She doesn't have that same confidence.
“So I think it's a confidence factor. I think it's a Nick Saviano factor, too. I think he was really good for her. She's still young. She can still get it back. We're so quick to build up our stars and then sort of to talk them down. At the same time she hasn't had a good six months. It's not like she hasn't had a good two years. This is just six months.”
McEnroe also felt there was an arrogance about her which is not a bad thing to have on court but is of the opinon when she is on court she doesn’t go out there with a variety of options in her game if things are not going the right way.
“It doesn't seem like she's got another gear, another place to go,” he said. “If she wants to get it back, in my opinion, she has to have a Plan B, possibly C. A doesn't always work with certain people. You have to be able to be versatile. What I see is there's no versatility right now. Obviously a lot of what Chrissie said about the mental part is absolutely right now. But she's got to be become more well-rounded in her game.”
The area of endorsements and off-court activities needs to get prioritized, there is plenty of time for all that and if the results come on court, the off-court aspects will fall into place.
Evert added: “If she has a desire to get her game back, she has to prioritize and set aside the covers of magazines right now. I think she's got to prioritize and really hunker down and just work on her game with no distractions, just to get her game back, just to get it back. I think she's got to get her strength back and the strengths in her game are moving and hitting out with confidence. She's gone from a 10 to a 7 there. She's not doing it as well as she did last year.
“I don't know if a lot of top-10 players lost nine first rounds. Everything has to be working perfectly for her to play her best tennis. Again, I would just probably go away, try to work on my game, try to get my focus back. I don't know how her focus is. I'm not really privy to it.”
A turnaround is not expected in time for Wimbledon.