Has Eugenie Bouchard's Star Faded for Good?

Merlisa Lawrence Corbett@@merlisaFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2016

Eugenie Bouchard hits a forehand during her first-round loss at the 2016 U.S. Open in New York.
Eugenie Bouchard hits a forehand during her first-round loss at the 2016 U.S. Open in New York.Al Bello/Getty Images

Two days before her first-round loss at the 2016 U.S. Open, Eugenie Bouchard posted a tweet that drew Serena Williams into a conversation about the Canadian's commitment to tennis.

That tweet reflects where Bouchard finds herself: on the outside looking in at the top-tier players.

Bouchard excels at tweeting, uploading Instagram photos and in magazine photo shoots. However, she's struggling at tennis, the sport that propelled her into the spotlight. Her stardom is fading. In fact, it may have faded for good.

Tuesday, Bouchard lost to No. 72 Katerina Siniakova, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. A Wimbledon finalist in 2014, Bouchard's been in a yearlong funk on the court.

Meanwhile, she continues to sign endorsement deals. Once considered the next Maria Sharapova, Bouchard's career is starting to look more like that of Anna Kournikova, a Grand Slam-less player who enjoyed champion-level attention.

In her last seven Grand Slam appearances, Bouchard has lost in the first round three times, the second round twice and once in the third and fourth round, respectively. She's ranked No. 39 and is projected to drop outside the top 40 on Monday.

Bouchard told the Associated Press (via Tennis.com) that she has yet to regain her top form: "I didn't feel like, on the court, I was back to where I was. But physically, since the beginning of the year, I've been feeling good."

Last year, Bouchard seemed to be regaining confidence before she suffered a concussion in a locker room accident at the U.S. Open. She withdrew from the tournament and sued the U.S. Open and USTA. The lawsuit has yet to be resolved.

Her attorney, Benedict Morelli, blames the USTA for what he characterized as "hardball" tactics, per the New York Times' Ben Rothenberg. The USTA released a statement to the SportsBusiness Journal that was published in the Montreal Gazette:

It is truly unfortunate that a year after her accident, Genie's focus is on matters other than playing to her best ability. As you probably know, her lawyers asked for an extension; the USTA on the other hand, has remained ready, willing and able to bring the litigation to a conclusion as expeditiously as is possible whether through settlement discussions or a fully litigated process.

Sunday, Bouchard sent that tweet that featured Williams introducing Beyonce at the Video Music Awards, with the comment "You should be focused on the US Open! Oh no wait, you're Serena":

She seemed to be taking a shot at the USTA by pointing out that Williams has many interests outside of tennis. Although Bouchard may not have intended to elevate herself to Williams' status, that's the way several Twitter followers took it.

They suggested Bouchard win a few Slams—perhaps 22—before comparing her off-court options to those of Williams.

Forget about comparing her to Williams, Bouchard is falling behind players her age or younger. She's 22. There are seven players younger than Bouchard who are ranked above her. Madison Keys, 21, is ranked No. 9.

As she descends into mediocrity, her critics are increasing.

After she lost to Angelique Kerber in the second round of the Rio Olympics, Canadian rower and commentator Adam Kreek, suggested on CBC (via Global News) that she was more concerned about fashion than tennis.

Bouchard scoffs at the idea that tennis is not a priority. She told Rothenberg: "I am 100 percent focused on tennis."

To be fair, Kerber is No. 2 and reached the gold-medal round. It's not like Bouchard lost to an unranked player. Perhaps it was how she lost. After taking a 4-1 lead in the first set, Bouchard crumbled. Kerber beat her 6-4, 6-2.

It's difficult to judge what motivates players or if they are giving 100 percent. Results, however, are quantifiable. Bouchard is 30-21 this year. In 2014, she reached the WTA Tour Championships, a year-end tournament for the season's top eight players. She's No. 31 right now.

Her record in Grand Slams in 2014 was 19-4. In 2015 it dropped to 7-3. This year, she's 4-4.

What appeared to be a slump may be the new normal for Bouchard. What if she's settled into the type of tennis player she's going to be? Perhaps instead of a sign of a career to come, 2014 was a fluke.

She's still young and has time to improve. Li Na, 34, and Kerber, 28, are proof that players can have late-career success. However, unlike Bouchard, once Li and Kerber reached the top 20, they stayed there.

Bouchard reached a career-high of No. 5 in 2014. She finished last year ranked No. 48. This year, she dropped to a season-low No. 68 after the Australian Open. Her brief climb back to the 30s will end on Monday.

Things look dim for the once-bright star.

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