If we rewind over the past 52 weeks, things looked much brighter for Eugenie Bouchard, Grigor Dimitrov, and Simona Halep. To be sure, I don’t think it is time to put eulogies on any of their young careers. However, their results in Paris raise many questions.
Bouchard did not laugh last or best here
Eugenie Bouchard is in the Most Dire Straits
Eugenie Bouchard started 2014 with a 16-3 Grand Slam record. Her semifinal finishes in Melbourne and Paris were surpassed by a runner-up finish at Wimbledon. Bouchard seemed to the next great champion in women’s tennis entering her championship match with Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon. Kvitova dismissed Bouchard 6-3, 6-0. Since that time Bouchard has not been the same player.
This is understandable, but what has followed has suggested deeper problems. Losing a one-sided manner in the championship round of the biggest event in tennis would dent a player’s confidence. However, hand shake controversies and a slew of bad losses suggest to me that Bouchard may be cracking under the weight of over-exposure.
Bouchard is somehow deemed by some to be the most bankable athlete in the world (!?) in terms of endorsements at the moment. She has money and fame, but the pain of losing, having to deal with practices, injuries, trainers, nutritionists, PR directors, sponsors, may be much less appealing than when one is climbing a mountain. The problem Bouchard faces is she has the fruits of having climbed the mountain without having actually reached any notable summits. That adds to a whisper that will follow her until she either fades completely or claims a big prize.
Suggested Remedy: Barring getting lost in a little place called Radiator Springs, I think she should reach out to Caroline Wozniacki who has rebounded from some poor patches and media scrutiny.
Dimitrov’s best 2015 moment came in an exhibition
Grigor Dimitrov – Baby Haas?
The Roger Federer comparisons need to stop for Dimitrov. He may even win a Grand Slam, once he gets one people can talk about two, but Dimitrov is not Roger Federer. His stroke production is similar. However, Fed’s footwork is better and Fed’s court positioning is much more aggressive. This court positioning allows for the match to be on Federer’s racquet far more often than it is on Dimitrov’s. Tommy Haas reached a Grand Slam semifinal and may have won that match and the 2002 Australian Open had his match with Marat Safin not moved indoors via a closed roof. The rain delay allowed Marat to regroup and rally.* Dimitrov has a chance to win some big trophies in tennis, but right now his career is trending much more like Tommy Haas’ or Henri Leconte’s.
Suggested Remedy: Dimitrov needs to look at creating better go to patterns on big points. If he generates a few more reliable approaches to big points, his results and ranking should rebound.
Was Lucic-Baroni sent from the 90s to make Halep’s life miserable?
Simona Halep – Not Partying like it is 1999
Halep did not have the clay court season I was envisioning after her stout match versus Serena in Miami. Still, Halep is in the least trouble of the 3 players listed. She has lost matches to Suarez Navarro and Wozniacki she should have won. She also seems to be a terrible match-up against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni who has become one of the great stories in tennis over the past 52 weeks. Mirjana Lucic was a rising star in 1999 when she reached the Wimbledon semifinal and played Steffi Graf tough. Lucic became a member of the long list of burned out tennis players who had shown great promise (Eugenie avoid this if you can). Now Lucic-Baroni has pulled two big upsets vs. Halep and shown that tennis players can rebound and return to the tour. Lucic-Baroni’s power game, maturity, and the mental fortitude of coming back now make her a dangerous player to everyone on tour.
Suggested Remedy: Halep needs to hope the draw gods help her avoid Lucic-Baroni. She also needs to work on mixing her serve placements so that it can’t be picked on as easily. Finally, Halep should grind out a few wins by playing great defensive tennis in order to make sure he strokes are grooved in match situations.
Wrong year I know, but still great stuff
* – The razor’s edge of winning a Grand Slam title is sharper than we often like to remember. Andy Roddick dominated the summer hard court circuit in 2003, but he had to save a match point in his US Open semifinal match. Novak Djokovic is one of the greatest hard court players of all time, but his lone US Open title required saving two match points against Roger Federer’s serve. Tommy Haas would have been favored if he had reached the Australian Open final in 2002, but a rain delay helped undermine his chances. Haas also had Lleyton Hewitt in trouble at the 2001 US Open only to have a rain delay change the momentum in that match.