On the heels of one impressive victory this week, Eugenie Bouchard has possibly turned her career around. She has been the ingénue, back in 2014 cracking the top ten as a 20-year-old. She has been the object, be it posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue or generating publicity for going out on a date as the result of a Twitter exchange during the Super Bowl. She has been at sea, going from one coach to another and having a difficult time winning. Coming into Madrid, Bouchard had lost six straight WTA matches. In an effort to generate more results, Bouchard in April entered an ITF event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida – and in the third round lost to #896 Victoria Duval, 6-0, 6-3.
Bouchard opened Madrid with a three-set win over Alize Cornet. The next round was one of the best matches of 2017. It took nearly three hours for Bouchard to beat Maria Sharapova 7-5, 2-6, 6-4. This was a match with tons of drama both inside and outside the lines. The points were ferocious. Bouchard and Sharapova each play a brand of first-strike tennis, marked by seeking to generate offense early with power and one concussive drive after another.
But as the world knows, the bigger theme with these two was the rancor generated by Bouchard’s comments about Sharapova and her return following a drug-related suspension. Said Bouchard last month, “She is a cheater and so, to me, I don't think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again. It's so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way.”
Following the Madrid win, Bouchard spoke about how many players had shared her views of Sharapova and sent her messages of support. It was a bit ironic to hear Bouchard speak in communal tones. This is a woman who, like Sharapova, has also made it clear she is hardly keen to join forces with her peers. “For me, I see them as competition,” Bouchard said two years ago at the Australian Open. “I don’t want to become really good friends with any of the girls…I’m definitely friendly with most of them, and that’s fine, but I kind of come here, do my job, and leave. I think that’s the best way for me to stay focused and not really have distractions.”
But of course a lot has happened to Bouchard since then – not too much of it positive. Ranked #7 at the end of 2014, she finished the next two years at #48 and #47. Currently, the 23-year-old Canadian is ranked #60.
I was deeply impressed by Bouchard’s tennis in 2014, strongly believing she had both the skills and the competitive temperament to enjoy a long run in the top ten and persistently contend for Grand Slam titles. It hasn’t gone that way. But can Bouchard generate more quality results? In the wake of the quality of tennis she played versus Sharapova, one hopes she can.
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