The Rise and Fall of Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard defeated at the Auckland Open
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Eugenie Bouchard showed her talent at an early age, winning the Canadian Under-18 Indoor Championship in Toronto aged just 15. She then reached back-to-back Australian Open junior semifinals in 2011 and 2012, before claiming her first junior Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2012. That made her the first Canadian, junior or professional, to win a Grand Slam singles title, and she added to that by winning the doubles titles for the second straight year.

At that point, she had also won six ITF events. In 2013, Bouchard claimed her first top-50 with a victory over close friend Laura Robson at the Family Circle Cup, backing that win up by beating Australia’s Samantha Stosur to secure her her maiden top-10 victory. Continuing her fine run of form at Wimbledon, she defeated former-world #1 and 12th seed Ana Ivanovic on Centre Court in the second round in straight sets, in what was then the biggest win of her career.

The following year saw her build on her breakthrough season by reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open, a feat which saw her ranking jump up to inside the world’s top 20 for the first time. Bouchard then won her first WTA title on the clay at the Nuremberg Cup, a warm-up for the French Open. That was a sign of things to come for the Canadian, with Bouchard reaching the last four at Roland Garros, beating eighth seed Angelique Kerber en route.

Then, on the hallowed lawns at the All England Club, Bouchard truly announced herself on the world stage, storming into her first Grand Slam singles final, making her the first Canadian player to do so. But the occasion appeared to get the better of Bouchard, who put in a disappointing performance as she was hammered 3-6 0-6 by 2011 champion Petra Kvitova. Nonetheless, despite that dispiriting defeat, the future looked bright for Bouchard, who was named the WTA’s Most Improved Player.

But she lost her way badly in 2015. Bouchard started her season by making the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park, but lost early in Indian Wells and Miami before making back-to-back first-round exits at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, which saw her fall out of the top 20. Belatedly, however, she found some form at the US Open, scoring consecutive victories for the first time since March to reach the last 16 for the second year in a row.

But ahead of her fourth-round match against Roberta Vinci, the Canadian was forced to withdraw with concussion after slipping and hitting her head in the locker room. She would finish just one more match in 2015 as she struggled to recover from the fall and filed a lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association for physical and emotional damages. The lawsuit was eventually resolved in her favour, with the USTA settling after being found liable for 75% of any potential damages.

But the accident appeared to continue affecting her, with Bouchard unable to find any sort of form, falling out of the top 100 in early 2018 after a period of sustained struggle. In fact, she has failed to pass the third round at a Major since her concussion and last season lost 13 matches on the bounce. That included a defeat at the hands of the unheralded world #272 Gabriela Talaba of Romania, who had never previously beaten a player ranked inside the top 200.

That run of poor form saw Bouchard end 2019 ranked 262nd in the world, 257 places down from her career high. But there did appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel in the early weeks of 2020, with Bouchard recording impressive wins over former-Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens as well as France’s Caroline Garcia, who was once ranked as high as world #4, only for the Canadian to fail to qualify for the Australian Open, losing in the final round of qualifying.

But she may end up benefitting from the enforced break in the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There is no doubt that Bouchard, now 26, has failed to fulfil her early potential, with a Grand Slam title now looking far out of reach for the Canadian. But it is equally true that at 26, Bouchard still has time on her side. The question now is: will she use it?

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