By Melissa Boyd
Dec. 3, 2012 — Eugenie Bouchard has been on the Canadian tennis radar for almost as long as she has been swinging a racquet. Labeled early on as the potential ‘next one’ to follow in the footsteps of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi, and Aleksandra Wozniak, Bouchard has begun carving her own path to greatness thanks to a breakout season in 2012.
The 18-year-old native of Montreal made history in July when she was crowned girls’ singles and doubles champion at Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. Bouchard actually won 19 consecutive matches this summer with her Wimbledon triumph sandwiched between titles at the ITF junior event in Roehampton and the $25,000 pro Challenger in Granby.
“Winning Wimbledon was a really tough tourney. It was a junior (event). I had the pressure all week. People expected me to win because I was playing women younger than me. So it was a big mental test and I was really proud that I was able to come through,” said Bouchard in an interview last week with a select group of reporters.
Many in attendance on Court 1 at SW19 were impressed with Bouchard’s poise and maturity in posting a convincing win over Elina Svitolina in the Wimbledon girls’ singles final on one of the biggest stages in tennis. She put her mental toughness on display at the Rogers Cup in Montreal when she out-toughed Shahar Peer, one of the best competitors in the women’s game, to earn her first Top 50 victory.
Perhaps the most impressive stretch of Bouchard’s year came during the Fall indoor season when she put her aggressive style of play on full display, reaching the final at the Saguneay Challenger and the following week winning her first $50,000 Challenger in Toronto. Bouchard suffocated her opponents with her offense-first mentality, losing just a handful of games en route to the title in Toronto and dominating Melanie Oudin in the Saguenay semifinals. The run secured her place in the Australian Open qualifying draw which will be her first Grand Slam as a pro.
“I had great coaches when I was young and they taught me to take the ball on the rise. I think that’s it really important in the women’s game,” said Bouchard. “Of course you want to hit fast, but you want to hit it early as well … Hitting it fast takes time away from your opponent.”
With 2012 now in her rear view mirror and the tennis world at her fingertips, Bouchard is ready to make the transition to becoming a full-time WTA pro in 2013. She is fully aware of the challenges awaiting her if she wants to prove that her 2012 campaign was no fluke.
“The top players in the world have a little something extra,” said Bouchard. “They don’t make mistakes and they don’t give you any free points, you have to earn them.”
Even though her career is just getting started, Bouchard is already turning heads off the court as much as she is impressing on it. Their obvious physical likeness and similar game styles have people drawing comparisons between the Canadian and her idol Maria Sharapova. Not to mention that Bouchard was recently chosen by Sharapova to wear her line of Nike tennis clothing. She is the whole package and her bubbly personality is a hit with fans. Even though it’s early, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the excitement surrounding Bouchard and she knows that the onus is now on her to deliver on those expectations and send a message that the future is now.
“There is pressure from everyone around me, but I already put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Bouchard. “It’s nice to know that people think I am going to be good because that’s what I believe too, but I have to focus on what I have to do to become that player.”
By Maud Watson
At the front part of this week, the powers-at-be of the ATP were happy to announce that a decision had been made to shorten the season by two weeks, beginning in 2012. In order to achieve shaving off two weeks from the current schedule, the week between the Paris Masters and ATP World Tour finals was eliminated, and four other smaller tournaments will be shifted around to different weeks in the calendar. In the end, the decision was not surprising, and all parties had to be fairly pleased with the outcome. The bigger question to look out for in the next few years to come will be if they opt to shorten the season any further. As that will most likely mean cutting tournaments, it may be dependent upon how much the players take advantage of the new 2012 off season as opposed to playing exhibitions. At the very least, expect the odds to increase that such a future decision will be messier than this current breakthrough.
In recognition of the fact that the ATP has planned to shorten its season starting in 2012, the ITF has been forced to consider the possibility of moving both the Fed Cup and Davis Cup finals further up in the year. Such a move would most likely benefit both players and fans, as things tend to run more smoothly when all of the governing bodies work in sync. In addition to this consideration, it would probably be even more beneficial if the ITF sinks its energies into revamping the structure of the Davis Cup, a subject that people are hearing more and more whispers about.
Another legal battle appears to be on the horizon as the USTA has filed a claim against Olympus, the company that has served as the title sponsor of the US Open Series. The USTA claims Olympus is looking to save the nearly $11.7 million it will cost to sponsor the 2011 US Open Series, while Olympus is claiming it has the right to pull out of the contract due to category conflicts with Panasonic. The USTA will seek to acquire the $11.7 million for the 2011 US Open series sponsorship, as well as a declaratory judgment that it didn’t violate Olympus’ exclusive sponsorship rights. It will certainly be a hassle and a blow if the USTA comes out on the short end of the stick, but at least with the success of the series and the US Open itself, one would like to think that the USTA won’t have to look far to find a new title sponsor with Olympus having pulled out of the contract that was slated to run through 2013.
The Battle Wages On
It seems that mediation efforts between Tennis Channel and Comcast have failed, and now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is apt to have to get involved. Tennis Channel is alleging that it shouldn’t be on one of the more costly sports tier of channels when two of Comcast’s own channels – Golf Channel and Versus – are part of the basic service package. Comcast claims Tennis Channel agreed to its place on the sports tier back when they first negotiated a deal. Comcast seems relatively confident that the FCC will find in its favor, but tennis fans will be hoping otherwise. A finding in favor of the Tennis Channel could help the game grow in a multitude of ways.
Well, the foot injury plaguing Serena Williams has once again forced her out of another Grand Slam, as she has already announced that she will not be in Melbourne to defend her 2010 title. Williams stated that she had to have additional surgery on the foot due to training too hard and too soon following her first surgery. The pullout will cost Williams 1,000 ranking points, and it is apt to cost her a place in the Top 10. It’s a blow to the younger of the two Williams sisters and her fans, but rest assured that when she is healthy, it’s difficult to imagine any scenario in which she won’t shoot back up towards the upper echelons of the women’s rankings. In fact, assuming she makes a full recovery from the freak foot accident, don’t be shocked to see her named the favorite going into SW19.
In life, ‘love’ envelopes all that is good and passionate. In tennis, ‘love’ is on the other side of the spectrum. It’s the equivalent of nothing, nada, rien, nichts. How is it then that an Indo-European word meant to show great belief and affection turns to anger and disgust in the world of tennis?
When we are down love-40 in a game of tennis, it conjures up thought that we are inadequate, and that perhaps we should find a new job, hobby, or general change in the path our life is heading. But what if being down love-40 is exactly what we need in order to breakthrough and perform our best? Every day there are unnecessary things in life that bring us down and draw energy out of us. It’s those times when our character is tested that we see exactly how strong we are. That we are indeed empowered, in control, and the serve is ours for the taking if only we believe.
The next time you are down love-40 in tennis or life, think of it as an advantage to prove your passion and dedication. To a tennis player and spectator, love can turn from anger and disgust into glory and triumph in a matter of seconds. There is no greater reward than to come back from the depths of despair and stand up victorious and joyful.
This column is dedicated to the ‘love’ of tennis: the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s called Romi’s Rants, Raves and Missives.
The first Grand Slam of 2010 is about to get started in Melbourne and with the draw announced we can now start to debate who will be crowned champion in two weeks time. Will it be someone from the usual suspects – a Federer or Nadal perhaps? Or will someone new like Fernando Verdasco or Andy Murray breakthrough and claim their first major? Let’s take a look at who has a strong shot at the title and some of the potential dark-horses as well.
Every Grand Slam begins by looking at world number one, Roger Federer, and rightly so. Having “only” won the Aussie Open three times, Federer has not had as much success at the start of the year as you might imagine. He is three years removed from his last victory in Melbourne and with the draw he has in 2010 I wouldn’t expect Federer to be the last man standing. In fact, I think this is the Slam where his record of twenty-two straight Grand Slam semi-finals may finally come to an end. It has to at some point, right?
Who is the most likely man to take Federer out? Igor Andreev is hoping it might be him in the opening round, and Andreev is a tricky player who just might be up for to the task. The pair have only met twice before, but Andreev gave Federer a rough-go at the 2008 U.S. Open where he pushed him to five sets before losing 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Andreev is as inconsistent as they come, but has come up big in the past during high-stakes matches as he displayed in ending Rafael Nadal’s streak on clay back in 2005. This is not a guy that Roger wants to face in his opening match.
Federer may also have to face either Marcos Baghdatis or Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round, and potentially Fernando Verdasco or Nikolay Davydenko (who defeated him in Qatar two weeks ago) in the quarter-finals. Sure, Roger is still favored to make it deep in this tournament – but the potential for upset grows stronger each year.
Also in the top-half of the draw is third-seeded Novak Djokovic who has a nice section at this year’s edition. The first seeded player he may face is little-known Jeremy Chardy of France in round three and the only true opposition I can foresee would be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals. Tsonga actually leads their career head-to-head by a 4-2 margin, but Djokovic won their last encounter on hard courts easily in 2009.
Djokovic has not chosen to play any ATP tournaments thus far in 2010 which is puzzling. Instead he showed up at the Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament where he beat an aging Tommy Haas and then went down to Verdasco 6-1, 6-2 in an apparently meek effort. To make the start of his season even more troubling, Djokovic then played a friendly match against Australian Bernard Tomic and was beaten 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. These are not your typical Djokovic results but makes one question his off-season preparation.
Despite these early upsets and the fact that Djokovic’s frail physique is not meant for the brutal Aussie heat, he does have a good path in front of him to succeed. A couple of easy wins could boost his confidence and make him tap into the success he had here when he won his first and only Slam in 2008.
Fernando Veradsco is a player to watch and just came off a victory at Kooyong over Tsonga in the finals. Verdasco pushed Nadal to his limits at the Aussie Open in 2009 and came ever so close to defeating him before falling in the fifth set. His problem is that he usually does not trouble the top-fve and lost to all his matches at the season-ending championships in London to Federer, Del Potro and Murray in November.
The bottom-half of the draw contains some serious fire power with Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal all lumped together. Picking one of those four players to make it to the finals is easier said than done – although it will without a doubt come from this talented pack of four. I would be shocked if anyone but these four made it to the quarter-finals in the bottom of the draw. I will be glued to my television for the expected Roddick/Del Potro and Murray/Nadal matches.
Roddick already won his first tournament of 2010 by defeating Radek Stepanek in Brisbane. Looks like he is healthy and should breeze through the early round matches.
Del Potro has broken through the Grand Slam barrier with his win over Federer in New York last year. His confidence should be high, but it remains to be seen if he is prepared to challenge at the Slams on a regular basis. Success can affect people in different ways, so Del Potro will want to start the year off strong so that everyone knows he is for real.
Andy Murray is aware that it’s time to show the world he is capable of winning a major. He set high hopes after making the finals at the U.S. Open in 2008, but his results at the Slams in 2009 left a lot to be desired. The talent is there with Murray, but we’ve yet to see the mental consistency on the big stage.
Finally, defending champion Rafael Nadal must also be mentioned – I mean, he did win the thing a year ago! With no titles in the past nine months and injuries that derailed his season in 2009, it is easy to forget about Nadal’s potential impact on the game in Australia. Due to last year’s circumstances, the pressure will not be very high for Nadal in Melbourne and he is a strong possibility to repeat as champion.
Anticipated First-Round Matches:
Mikhail Youzhny vs Richard Gasquet: These two have only met three times before, and you can ignore the results in that series. Youzhny defeated a sixteen year old Gasquet at this tournament in 2003, Gasquet won on hard-courts in 2005, and then Youzhny won a tight five-setter in 2007 on clay. Youzhny is the 20th seed, while Gasquet should be ranked higher if not for his suspension last year. A coin-toss that I’d give the edge to Gasquet based on recent results and a heck of a first round match to watch.
Marin Cilic vs Fabrice Santoro: Just when you thought the magician had retired he is coaxed back onto the court to become the only player to appear in four decades as a professional tennis player. This will also mark Santoro’s 70th career Grand Slam. The 37 year old has been training hard in order to make this a competitive appearance, but don’t expect him to defeat the 14th seeded Cilic. It will be their first career meeting and I’m sure the veteran will have some tricks up his sleeve that the young Croat has likely never seen before.
Radek Stepanek vs Ivo Karlovic: The 13th seeded Stepanek surely hoped for an easier starting match than big-serving Ivo Karlovic. This match will feature two completely-opposite styles of play and probably not too many lengthy rallies.
As I mentioned before, beware of Igor Andreev to give Federer a stern test in the first round. Qualifier Xavier Malisse could push through a few rounds and upset Nicolas Almagro in the opener as well.
Overall though, this does not look like a tournament where someone is going to surprise us and come from nowhere to make headlines. It is a strong field with a small cluster of top quality hard-court players. One of the regulars should be hoisting the trophy when the final Sunday comes around.