There’s no way around it: Eugenie Bouchard hit rock bottom today.
The 2014 Wimbledon finalist was beaten in straight sets in the first round Tuesday by qualifier Ying-Ying Duan. Not only did Bouchard lose the ranking points she accumulated by reaching the final last year, but she also guaranteed herself of dropping out of the WTA Top 20.
Tuesday was the nadir of a season already gone sour. The Canadian had entered Wimbledon having lost 10 of her last 12 matches, and many of them were against opponents that you would expect Bouchard to handle if she was playing at the level we know she is capable of. Her partnership with Sam Sumyk, one that was established in February, is facing major questions much earlier than either of them or anyone expected. Sumyk was able to take Victoria Azarenka to the top of the game and most figured he’d be able to help Bouchard reach similar peaks.
For whatever reason, this has not been the case.
It’s only been five months, so Sumyk probably deserves a bit more time to help Bouchard turn this around, but if this pattern of losing persists, don’t be shocked if Sumyk gets the boot before end of the season.
What we saw from Bouchard today against Duan was not pretty. After the match, she revealed that she had been playing with a Grade 2 abdominal tear, the same injury that caused her to pull out of Eastbourne last week. While nobody can blame Bouchard for wanting to show up and defend her points from last year, playing with such an injury was definitely a huge risk.
The main problem that Bouchard is facing right now is that her struggles have caused her to stray away from controlled tennis and to deviate towards a brand of tennis built around forcing the action, as opposed to letting it come naturally. Bouchard, regardless of her court positioning, plays the same brand of tennis regardless of the amount pressure she is facing from her opponent’s oncoming shot and court positioning, and plays identical shots.
Tactically, this mindset is something that could stem from struggling. Bouchard, unable to find her way through matches, might have decided that she needs to force the action and be even more aggressive than she usually is — attempting low percentage shots off hard hit balls, behind the baseline and on the move. Bouchard is typically an aggressive, on-the-rise ball striker but one who realizes swinging for the fences every other shot won’t work. In her defense, playing with an injury necessitates a high-risk game plan, but there were some shots today that she shouldn’t have gone for regardless of how badly she was feeling.
Before anyone declares Bouchard’s run last year was a fluke or that she was a flash in the pan, let’s not forget she is only 21. There are ups and downs throughout the career of every professional athlete, so to say this is the end all be all for Bouchard is preposterous and will likely be proven false in the near future.
In her post match press conference today, Bouchard was calm and collected — ready to put the first half of her season behind and start moving toward the latter part of the season. This is exactly the type of mindset that she needs. For someone of her age, she’s handling everything with great perspective and with a lot of maturity. This type of attitude leads to the belief that what she is experiencing now will be the exception, rather than the norm throughout her career. Bouchard is simply too talented and too mentally tough of a player to allow this downswing to continue for much longer, but as always, only time will tell.