Sunday 22 April 2018

No happy ending in sight to the decline and fall of Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard
Eugenie Bouchard

Tanya Aldred

At Wimbledon last year, Eugenie Bouchard was the fragrant future of women's tennis.

A finalist at just 20, with whippy ground strokes, tenacity and a stark beauty straight out of a book of optimistically illustrated fairy tales, she had both tennis fans and sponsors fawning to polish the dazzling slippers on her feet. Twelve months later, and all the fragrance and the fans counted for a knockabout nothing.

Under a mean-faced south London sun, she was bumped out 7-6, 6-4 in the first round by a 13.5 stone Chinese giant with a basketball player for a father and power to pummel, her searing serves heaping upon Bouchard's woes down on Court No 3.

On paper it should have been a walkover for Bouchard, ranked 12, against qualifier Ying-Ying Duan, who was slugging around in the gumboots of the rankings at 117. But unfortunately for Bouchard, the game was not played on paper but on a mean and unforgiving grass. And was the culmination of a woeful run of form.

A triumphant 2014 in which she made the semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens and the final here has been followed by months of out-of-sorts behaviour, injury, controversy and bad results. She has now lost 11 of her past 13 matches.

Yesterday's match was not an unmitigated disaster for Bouchard. There were moments where the lashing forehand left her heavy-footed but immensely strong opponent moaning in frustration. But amongst the brilliance were scattered 10 double faults, and amongst the determination, a simple smash that plopped off her racquet into her own net.

She served to stay in the first set twice, but she fell so far behind in the tiebreak that she could not catch up. Against an opponent serving routinely at more than 100mph, she teetered on the edge of the baseline, sometimes looking on the verge of being blown away.

Perhaps all the other stuff - her statement that she was not on the tour to make friends, her bust-up with former best friend Laura Robson, her random refusal to shake hands with a Federation Cup opponent prior to a game, her decision to change coach just after reaching the quarter-final of the Australian Open, the glossy magazines - all add up to a player who feels confused by who she is supposed to be. Bouchard revealed that she was carrying a second-degree abdominal tear - the same tear that forced her to pull out of a match at Eastbourne.

"There was no question I was going to play, even though I was advised not to. I was taped, I felt OK. I was trying not to think about it. But I just haven't practised much. So I felt my timing was very off. It is unfortunate that it happened at my favourite tournament." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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