In recent years we’ve grown accustomed to coach changes, breakdown of relations between players and members of their backroom staff, but nothing felt more sudden than the split of Frenchman Sam Sumyk with Victoria Azarenka, earlier this week. Sumyk will be coaching Eugenie Bouchard, who split with her coach at the end of last season, and didn’t have a coach at the Australian Open, going forward.
Sumyk’s got a different task at hand, if he wants to get the same sort of success with the Canadian Number One, as he did previously with Azarenka. Under the tutelage of Sumyk, Azarenka was turned into a regular business end Grand Slammer and also a two-time Grand Slam Champion at the Australian Open. He also was distinctive in her 26 match win streak in 2012, where she won 4 of 4 tournaments and also made the final minimum in 6 of her first 7 tournaments of a season.
Those numbers are impressive, but what strikes me was the technical side that Sumyk had obviously worked on with Azarenka. Despite ignoring or failing to solve the second serve problem with Azarenka, he turned her into a player that seemed to be like a working machine for the best part of 2012, and in periods of 2013. Her construction of a point was almost like seeing a top tier player’s practice drill, where she seemed to be one step ahead, instinctive in both where her ball would land followed by where her opponent was eventually about to play their shot. With supreme fitness and avoiding injuries at that time in her career, she was pretty hard to beat. When injuries to her knee, foot and toe all caught up with her, they took away a big part of her game – her on court movement.
With Bouchard, Sumyk will have to be really careful as he’s taken over a 20 year old, who despite still being seemingly young on the WTA circuit, has achieved an extravagant amount in such a short space of time. While she hasn’t been the sort of winner that Azarenka, Sharapova and Serena Williams were in 2012, she already has been to a Grand Slam final, something Azarenka didn’t have, when linking up with Sumyk. She’s made the semi-finals in three of the four Grand Slam events. Bouchard is frankly one of the modern day child prodigies in a sport, where players are playing longer and longer into an extensive career. To make it clear, what Sumyk had to do with Azarenka was completely turn her into a grand slam winner and a WTA Top 5 regular. With Bouchard it’s about having the right guidance behind her to direct her to the next step. She’s attained one of her goals of becoming a Top 10 player and reaching the Year End Championships, now it’s about doing it on a regular basis against the top players in the world from January to October, rather than sporadically as Bouchard has done at the bigger stages.
Bouchard’s style is to a degree robotic and mechanical. She takes the ball very early and even used that form of style when she was breaking through on the WTA circuit. Now, despite not fully being grown into a woman’s athletic body, she’s a lot more over the line in terms of development than she was 18 months ago. She’s capable of doing left, right tennis, which Azarenka had the ability to do when she was at the higher echelons of women’s tennis, but Sumyk now needs one hundred percent commitment from Bouchard. In the 21st century, is rare to find at such a young age. In modern day tennis where the technological aspect of more powerful racquets, enhancements in dietary products and fitness trainers, it really is the time where youngsters have to be dedicated at that age in order to catch up with the players years ahead of them on the tour.
On the Men’s tour you have players such as Nick Kyrgios, who despite making huge strides at slam level, still hasn’t done anything on the ATP tour, where the consistency of champions is regularly discovered. He’ll find out the hard way as he develops, but Sumyk with Bouchard will hope to turn her into the same sort of tennis machine that he guided in Azarenka.
Can he turn Bouchard into a grand slam champion? He’s got the credentials to do so, but can the Canadian rediscover her best tennis for a consecutive season? We’ll soon find out.
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