Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Commond Denominator: Bouchard And Raonic

"Semifinals of the Australian Open. Finals at Wimbledon. Next year, quarterfinals Down Under. Canadian"

That would be Eugenie Bouchard in 2014-15 and Milos Raonic in 2016-17. The two Canadians have really made believers out of Canadian tennis fans. Someday, Canada might get a singles grand slam under their belt. But maybe, "Not so fast," alas.

Bouchard, took the women's tour by storm in 2014. Well, at least until after Wimbledon. Storming past all opposition in the first five rounds Down Under, she beat a formiable top 10 player, Ana Ivanovic in the quarters and then finally lost to Na Li in the semifinals. Not a bad start to the season.

She didn't exactly take the pedal of the metal from there. For a while.

Some early round exits followed, but by May, she had her very first WTA title, in Nurnberg, beating Karolina Pliskova in the finals in three sets. And she had another grand slam semifinals up her sleeve!

May ended with Bouchard into the second week at the French Open. And she gave Maria Sharapova all she could handle in the semifinals, the Russian prevailing 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. Two grand slams played in 2014, and two semis! Could it get any better?

It did at Wimbledon.

Racing through her first six matches, Genie found herself, at 22, one match away from a grand slam title. Carling Bassett had reached the semifinals way back in 1984 at the US Open, but Canada finally had their first singles grand slam finalist! Alas, Bouchard was simply ushered out of the finals in swift and efficient manner by Petra Kvitova, who lost just three games. All of them, in the first set.

It seemed that here is where the wheels came of the chariot for Bouchard, however. She came back to here home, Canada, and lost in the first round in Montreal. Same in Cincinnati. She lost in the second round at New Haven. How about the year's final grand slam?

It was better than a round or two. In fact, Bouchard managed to win three matches. But instead of getting to her fourth quarterfinals (And maybe, fourth semifinals) of the year, she was simply dismissed by Ekaterina Makarova. It was straight sets again, but closer: 7-6, 6-2.

A finals appearance in Wuhan followed, and Bouchard was back on track. But only temporary. She won only one more match. Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, and Serena Williams just thrashed her at the WTA finals in Singapore. It wasn't pretty: 6-2, 6-3, followed by 6-1, 6-3 (Ivanovic got some revenge for the Australian Open with that straight-setter!) and 6-1, 6-1.

Oh, well. The year was over. 2015 started out pretty good for Eugenie. She only did one match worse in the Australian Open, making it 4 out of 5 quarterfinals reached at the slams. Maria Sharapova opposed her again in her fifth match there, and again Bouchard put enough enough resistance to take the second set before dropping the third.

But what has happened since to Bouchard? Struggles have followed. There's been injuries, including quite a bizarre one you've all probably heard about at the US Open. Her results really slipped at the grand slams and all over the place in 2015. 2016 was not better as her results were actually worse at the Grand Slams.

Eugenie started 2017 off on the right foot. In 2016, she'd reached the finals at Hobart. While she lost her first event this year at Brisbane (First round), Bouchard made her move at Sydney. She won three matches before eventually falling to Johanna Konta of Great Britain in the semifinals. Down Under for the year's first Grand Slam, she won two more matches before Coco Vanderwegh 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. However, Bouchard wasn't the story of Canadian tennis anymore at this point. No, someone was making some serious waves on the men's side.

Milos Raonic had fallen to Roger Federer in the 2014 Wimbledon semifinals. But when the two met at an event just before the first grand slam tow years later, the Canadian came out on top! At the 2016 Australian Open, he had Andy Murray where he wanted him: 2-1 up in sets! The Scottsman rallied from there, alas. And they'd meet again under dramatic circumstances later that year.

You see, Raonic beat that guy, Federer in the semifinals in five sets at Wimbledon, three years after falling to him. Murray awaited him in the finals. It wasn't too bad, although straight sets. The last two, went to tiebreakers that Andy managed to pull off! Murray continued his strong play that year, especially against Raonic, sadly. He beat him two more times: In Cincinnati and the Year-End Championship. But this time, Milos pushed Andy in the best-of-three match, narrowly losing a third-set tiebreaker.

So as 2017 dawned, things were looking up for not only the new #1 player in the world, Murray, but also the Canadian, Raonic. He was now ranked third in the world.

But as Brisbane, he lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the third round after beating Rafael Nadal in the second. The Spaniard was looking at a rematch at the Australian Open. This time, it was Nadal the winner of the quarterfinal encounter. And in straight sets. Nadal went all the way to the finals, losing to his great rival, Roger Federer. Both Federer and Nadal seemed to have regained their old form.

So can Bouchard get into contention in 2017? Can Raonic win a slam this year (Preferably Wimbledon, I would think!) and get the #1 ranking? Time, will provide an answer for both.


References


"Eugenie Bouchard's Tournament In Doubt." CNN.com. Cable News Network, 05 Sept. 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. <http://edition.cnn.com/2015/09/05/tennis/bouchard-injury-us-open-2015/>. International Edition.

Infosys, FedEx, Peugeot, and LeSports. "Official Site of Men's Professional Tennis | ATP World Tour | Tennis." ATP World Tour. Emirates. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.  <http://www.atpworldtour.com/>

SAP, Dubai Duty Free, IQYI, and USANA. "WTA." WTA Tennis. Women's Tennis Association, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017. <http://www.wtatennis.com/>.

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