Eugenie Bouchard: Tennis pros weigh in on her struggles
Canadian out in 1st round at Wimbledon
It was early June 2014, and Eugenie Bouchard was on her way up in the tennis world.
The then 20-year-old had reached the semifinals of the season's first two grand slam tournaments — the Australian and French Opens — and within a few weeks would make history as the first Canadian singles finalist at Wimbledon.
Bouchard was the complete package: talented, fit, attractive and blasting skyward in the world rankings, soon to reach as high as No. 6. She appeared to be in charge of her game and her life.
That now seems like a long time ago.
After her first-round loss at Wimbledon on Tuesday — to 117th-ranked Duan Ying-Ying — the Montreal native has only two victories in her last 13 matches and her world ranking will fall out of the top 20 when the new numbers are released.
The question everyone is asking is, what's up with Genie? She said after the loss to Duan that she was playing with an abdominal injury, but is there something else wrong?
Bouchard and her camp didn't respond to numerous requests for comment, but others in the tennis community were quick to weigh in with their thoughts.
Playing style 'hard to maintain'
Retired Canadian tennis professional Carling Bassett-Seguso is no stranger to the spotlight. She was ranked as high as No. 8 in the world 30 years ago and has enjoyed a successful career as a fashion model. She's also a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
In a recent phone interview the Toronto native, who now lives in Florida, said Bouchard's struggles stem from an inconsistent playing style.
"Her style is very hard to maintain. She rips from both sides and takes the ball so early. I also don't feel that she has enough variety in her game and I think she needs to utilize more of the net."
Bassett-Seguso also questioned Bouchard's decision to part ways with her coach of eight years, Nick Saviano, last November. Bouchard now works with Sam Sumyk, who is known for helping Victoria Azarenka win two Australian Open titles and reach No. 1 in the world.
"I don't think that was a good decision at all," Bassett-Seguso said. "[Saviano] is a very good coach and gave up his life [to work with her]."
Bassett-Seguso was also put off by Bouchard's "arrogance" at Wimbledon last year and her failure to show respect for opponents.
"She was always saying she expected to win. I am not saying you shouldn't feel like that, because you should, but you don't go around and talk about that in interviews."
Time to 'put the spotlight aside'
Mia Gordon, once ranked in the top 10 in Canada and now a television tennis analyst, also criticized Bouchard's treatment of her fellow players.
"It really struck me when she refused to shake hands with her opponent [before a Fed Cup match, which she went on to lose]," Gordon says. "That is something that is very unprofessional and it does show her immaturity."
Like Bassett-Seguso, Gordon sees holes in Bouchard's game.
"Genie needs to mix it up and throw in some short balls and a few change-ups and be willing to grind it out," she said. "I think she needs to figure out how to be more consistent. Here is a girl who goes for broke on almost every point."
A busy off-court schedule could be contributing to Bouchard's struggles as well, Gordon feels.
"I do think some of her focus may have shifted — we are seeing her on the covers of magazines, we're seeing her at concerts, out with celebrities, on TV shows and that's great and I think you can do it all. However, I think she needs to come back down to Earth a little bit and realize that, OK, my tennis is struggling and maybe it's time to put the spotlight aside and focus on figuring out how to get back to winning matches."
Former U.S. men's professional tennis player MaliVai Washington knows a thing or two about how quickly things can unfold once an athlete is in the limelight. Washington was ranked as high as No.11 in 1992 and reached the Wimbledon final in 1996.
"As you get better and your ranking moves up, a lot more attention is paid to you and I think one of the challenges is there is a lot more demand on your time and it often gets in the way of the routine," Washington said.
"If you're not careful, I think you can spread yourself a little bit too thin and you really have to learn how to say no to events or things that sponsors want to do or to things that the tournament wants you to do, simply because it's not preparing you in the way that you know how to prepare best."
Washington also questioned Bouchard's coaching move.
"Why make that change when you are having such great success?" he says. "It looks like an interesting, strange decision."