The story of Eugenie Bouchard is one we’re all familiar with and one we have seen with countless athletes over the years.
It is the story of a young star bursting onto the scene and putting in a performance that sees them touted as the “next big thing.”
However amongst the hype and fanfare, the athlete never quite lives up to the lofty expectations that are placed on their shoulders.
They then become a punchline or a running joke amongst sports fans, often branded a disappointment or a wasted talent.
The break-out year
For Bouchard the break-out year was 2014. At just nineteen years of age, she charged into the Australian Open semi-finals knocking out the likes of Ana Ivanovic along the way.
The young Canadian followed that up with a semi-finals appearance at Roland Garros.
But it was her performance at Wimbledon that really captured the public’s attention. She barnstormed her way to the semis without dropping a set.
Whilst she would ultimately fall short in the final against Petra Kvitová, the young star seemingly had the tennis world at her feet.
Eugenie Bouchard’s reality check
As we are about to enter the 2018 tennis season things haven’t quite panned out as many had expected for Bouchard.
There have been no more Grand Slam finals. In fact, in the last three years Bouchard hasn’t even gone close to a major.
Her current world ranking sits at 83 and she needed a wildcard just to play in January’s Hobart International.
This year Bouchard made headlines for going on Twitter dates rather than winning tournaments. Is it Eugenie’s fault she is making headlines for Twitter dates? Absolutely not. But if she was winning more tournaments there is a chance far more of the headlines would be tennis related rather than Twitter related.
Eugenie Bouchard has a lot of haters, especially online. One of the constant criticisms is that she doesn’t care about tennis and is too busy modelling.
Again I actually don’t think this could be further from the truth.
As we learned during our chat with Michelle Jenneke, there is no way an athlete can be training 24/7. There is nothing wrong with an athlete having a balanced life.
In Bouchard’s case, things like the Sports Illustrated shoot probably made her quite a lot of money. So why the hell wouldn’t she do it?
Whilst Bouchard’s ranking did drop significantly in 2017, there was one occasion where she showed she certainly does care about tennis. A lot.
That occasion was when she had her much publicised stand-off with Maria Sharapova.
Former world number 1 Maria Sharapova returned at the Stuttgart Open in April after she served a 15-month suspension for testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
Whilst much of the tennis community were keen to welcome Sharapova back with open arms, Eugenie Bouchard was not having a bar of it.
“She’s a cheater and I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play again,” Bouchard told BBC Sport.
“I think from the WTA it sends the wrong message to young kids: cheat and we’ll welcome you back with open arms. I don’t think that’s right and she’s not someone I can say I look up to any more.”
Whilst many criticised Bouchard for the remarks, I thought the passion was fantastic and showed that Bouchard cares a lot about tennis.
She backed up her fighting words by knocking Sharapova out of the Madrid Open in a tense three set encounter.
How will 2018 pan out for Eugenie Bouchard?
Many people are still desperate to see Bouchard back in a Grand Slam final. For a few years there she carried a nation’s tennis hopes on her shoulders with Canadians desperate to see her become the national tennis hero.
But at the end of the day I don’t think Bouchard cares about people’s expectations anymore. If she is to climb back to the top, I think she will be doing it for herself. Not the haters or the people that want her to be the “next big thing”.
So can she get back to the top 10? I bloody hope so. Based on some of her form last year, like when she was bundled out in the first round of four consecutive tournaments, you’d have to say no. But things can change very quickly in tennis.
Eugenie Bouchard still has all the attributes of a great tennis player and can certainly still mix it with the world’s best.
But mixing it with the best and being the best are very different things.
If there is one thing I have noticed with Bouchard over the years, she seems to be a confidence player. Once she gets some good results under her belt she seems to pick up plenty of momentum and perform well.
Strange as it sounds, I think Hobart could be a key tournament for Bouchard. If she is able to play some good tennis in Hobart her 2017 worries will become irrelevant.
If Bouchard can put in a strong showing at the Australian Open this year, she has every chance of carrying that momentum into the other slams just like she did back in 2014.