In 2014 Eugenie Bouchard looked to have the world at her feet. Fresh from reaching the Wimbledon final and a career-high ranking of fifth in the world, the Canadian was rated as one of the world’s most marketable athlete by SportsPro, finishing above Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi and Novak Djokovic. Off the court, Bouchard had sponsorships with the likes of Coca Cola, Aviva Canada and Colgate. It seemed like it would only be a matter of time before she firmly established herself as one of the best in the sport.
Her public profile remains undimmed, with Bouchard going viral during the 2017 Superbowl when she accompanied a fan on a date to a basketball game, having lost a twitter bet when the New England Patriots staged a famous comeback to win the Superbowl from 28-3 down against the Atlanta Falcons. Perhaps bizarrely, that date is set to be turned into a feature film with Bouchard listed as an executive producer. However, her tennis career has rather fallen apart over the past four years.
Far from challenging the greats of the game for the sport’s biggest trophies, Bouchard endured one of the worst seasons of her career in 2019, finishing well-outside the top 200 at world #224, her lowest year-end ranking since 2011, when she was just 17. Make no mistake, Bouchard’s struggles are not new, but she had at least remained around the top 100. The acceleration of her decline in 2019 will thus surely be a source of real concern.
Particularly because she has 70 ranking points to defend in Adelaide in the first week of next season. That represents a quarter of her total points and should she lose them, she will find herself in real danger of missing the cut for the Australian Open qualifying. That would be a bleak situation indeed for the former-semifinalist. In fact, the first quarter of the season will be vital for Bouchard if she is to stage a comeback, as she defends a further 120 points at Melbourne Park and in Dubai.
Bouchard has found herself in the shadow of her compatriot Bianca Andreescu, who enjoyed a memorable 2019. The teenager won two Premier-level titles in Indian Wells and Toronto, before doing what Bouchard could not and winning a Grand Slam title at the US Open. She also amassed a superb record against top-ten opponents, winning her first eight matches against players in that elite bracket. Bouchard’s breakout season of 2014 pales in comparison.
Bouchard’s marked decline has led to some criticism that her off-court activities are distracting from her tennis career. Bouchard, who has previously modelled for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, retains a large social media following, posting regularly from around the world. But this is surely not the cause of her decline. In truth, Bouchard has been struggling almost without interruption since 2015, with the head injury she suffered after a fall in the US Open changing rooms that season possibly still a hindrance.
The women’s game appears to have moved on and left Bouchard in it’s wake. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly hard to see the Canadian arresting her decline and making a return to the top of the sport. Bouchard played some superb tennis between 2013 and the beginning of the 2015, with her ability to take the ball on the rise and her court-coverage allowing her to mix with more powerful opponents. That should not now be overlooked due to her decline in form.
But she has failed to rediscover that form, with recurrent injuries seemingly preventing her from any real rhythm. What quality she possesses, she has been unable to find. She will be hoping that 2019 was the nadir of her tennis life, but it would no longer be a surprise were Bouchard to find herself on the outside looking in at the Grand Slams and possible the WTA Tour itself.
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