Eugenie Bouchard Faces a Daunting Road Back to Elite Status After Rough 2015

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2015

Eugenie Bouchard hits a backhand during the 2015 U.S. Open.
Eugenie Bouchard hits a backhand during the 2015 U.S. Open.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Eugenie Bouchard's locker room incident that left her with a concussion also forced her to withdraw from the U.S. Open and Tokyo Open. Now, that concussion could have a lasting impact on Bouchard's career.

Ranked as high as No. 5, No. 26 Bouchard will fall out of the top 30 by Monday. Still slated to play in Wuhan and Beijing, Bouchard will attempt to finish the WTA Tour's Asian swing. 

Bouchard is scheduled to play Belinda Bencic in the first round at Wuhan, which gets underway Sunday. Bencic is seeded No. 11. Bouchard is unseeded. 

In less than a year, Bouchard has gone from the WTA's next superstar to a player with tremendous challenges in what should be the prime of her career.

Among the best in 2014, Bouchard earned a spot in last year's WTA Finals. Ranked No. 39 in this year's Road to Singapore points race, finishing among the top eight is not going to happen.

Bouchard faces a daunting road back to elite status. 

Although there have been no official Bouchard sightings in Wuhan, according to Stephanie Myles of Yahoo Sports Canada, signs point to Bouchard returning to action this weekend. Myles noted that unlike with Tokyo, when Bouchard withdrew early, she remains on the entry list for Wuhan. 

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Eugenie Bouchard at Flushing Meadows a day after suffering a concussion.
Eugenie Bouchard at Flushing Meadows a day after suffering a concussion.Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

If Bouchard does a last-minute withdraw from Wuhan, that would be a huge blow to her ranking. Last year, Bouchard reached the finals at Wuhan where she lost a Wimbledon rematch against Petra Kvitova. 

That's 580 points she has to defend. She could drop out of the Top 40.

Coming back is difficult. Victoria Azarenka missed a few months with injuries in 2014, which caused the former No. 1 and two-time Slam champion to drop outside of the Top 50. A year later and Azarenka has yet to crack back into the Top 10.  She just barely got back into the Top 20. She's currently ranked No. 23. 

Last year, Bouchard reached three Grand Slam semifinals and the finals at Wimbledon. That's a banner year even for a veteran. 

After soaring so high, a return to Earth was bound to happen. However, Bouchard went into more than a sophomore slump. Prior the U.S. Open, she lost 12 of 14 matches.   

In April, during the slump, Tennis.com's Nina Pantic, a former tennis player herself, cautioned fans and colleagues not to count Bouchard out. 

But there’s no reason Bouchard can’t shake off this nightmare stretch with a little more resolve and patience. The same could also be said of her critics, who have been as quick to jump down her throat as the groupies were to jump on the bandwagon. Let’s not forget that Bouchard has proven capable of going deep at Grand Slams more than once—fluke runs they were not—and is still holding on to a No. 6 ranking.

Bouchard was making a comeback at U.S. Open. She reached the fourth round, and during her doubles match with partner Nick Kyrgios, Bouchard looked relaxed. She was smiling, even giggling between points.

She suffered the concussion later that evening. After her mixed doubles win with Kyrgios, Bouchard went back to the locker room in search of an ice bath. The locker room was reportedly dark, and Bouchard slipped and hit her head.

At first, it seemed the accident threatened only her mixed doubles and doubles matches. When she withdrew from both doubles matches, many people thought it was a precaution to prepare for her pending match with Roberta Vinci. 

Then word came that she had to withdraw from her singles match against Vinci, giving the Italian a walkover. 

Last week she withdrew from Toyko, citing lingering effects from the concussion. 

It's a setback Bouchard can ill afford. In February she turns 22, an age when many female players hit their stride. She was also just regaining her confidence. 

More importantly, Bouchard's run at the U.S. Open had stopped her fall in the rankings. Once a player drops in the rankings, he or she is forced to take on top tier players in earlier rounds. Climbing out of that hole is difficult.

Like Azarenka, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams has found it tough to regain her place among the elites. Since dropping out of the Top 10, Venus has had to take on her sister Serena in third and fourth rounds. 

To a lesser extent, Sloane Stephens is going through the same thing. Once ranked as high as No. 11, Stephens lost in the first round of the U.S. Open because she drew WTA rising star Coco Vandeweghe.

Even with youth on her side, Bouchard won't find it easy. After a horrendous finish in 2014 and a horrible start to 2015, she's facing an uphill battle in 2016. 

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