Tennis Elbow: Eugenie Bouchard is just struggling now

September 26, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon looks at everything surrounding Eugenie Bouchard.

The other day, we were sitting in the movie theatre waiting on whichever movie we were about to see and, bear with us here because we’re setting the scene, then the pre-show started.

You know the part right before your movie and the movie previews start, right? You get the nice little game of guessing which movie was, I don’t know, directed by James Cameron, and then you get a couple of commercials.

Well on that day at the movie, one of the commercials we got was the latest from Eugenie Bouchard’s partnership with Coca-Cola, one that started in 2014.

It’s this commercial right here.

The commercial is actually pretty good, asking everyone to develop their very own Diet Coke bottle design. Cool, right? Right, but this latest campaign started a mere few days after this.

Bouchard tweeted this, if you recall, just the night before she went to lose 6-2 and 6-3 in the second round against the No. 162-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva at the Coupe Banque Nationale.

The Challenger event in Quebec City, and by extension the greater public of the Quebec capital, were right there for the taking for Bouchard. She was in her home province, if not hometown, as the No. 1 seed and face of the tournament. A nice little run would have worked wonders both for the tournament organizers and for the player herself, as Bouchard could have used the boost of confidence that would have come with winning a second career title.

Bouchard could have use the boost in social capital as well because it’s been a crazy whirlwind for the 22-year-old since she first took the WTA Tour by storm in 2014. Over the past two years, well, she hasn’t always been the most beloved player. A win on home soil, well, that would have been great.

Instead, Bouchard flamed out, basically ran out of the court and left town without any post-match press conference of any sort after her loss.

She didn’t want to be there, not one extra minute; that was the message, and it’s one we certainly heard loud and clear. Because it’s Genie Bouchard, the entire episode was covered everywhere here in Quebec because everything she does always is.

This early exit is the latest in a downward spiral for the Canadian, who’s made headlines recently for her lawsuit against the USTA right in the thick of things at the US Open and perhaps a family saga that really, if we’re entirely honest, is none of our damn business.

Bouchard is now ranked No. 51 in the world, which really isn’t all that bad. If we look strictly at her numbers, she has played pretty well in 2016, especially coming after the nightmarish 2015 season. This year, Bouchard has won 31 matches and lost 22 and amassed a cool $541,183 in prize money.

This, really, is actually pretty good. It’s possible this is the new reality for Bouchard, who will settle into life as a pretty good, not excellent tour player. It would be a far cry from the meteor who dominated women’s tennis out of the blue in 2014, sure, but whatever.

Along with a relative uptick in results, Bouchard’s sponsorships have started again this year. Where she mostly focused on her tennis results during the disastrous 2015 season, she’s picked things up again in 2016.

As evidenced by this recent Coca-Cola commercial we saw at the movie theatre, and another one with Colgate.

This is probably the key, here. Win or lose on the tennis courts, Bouchard just might as well take advantage of all the opportunities that have come her way: because no lasting success is guaranteed.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Zverev, Pouille win maiden ATP World Tour titles in St. Petersburg, Metz

September 25, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG OPEN—ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

German Alexander Zverev captured his maiden ATP World Tour title on Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia, defeating top seed and reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. In a match that lasted two hours and 32 minutes, Zverev overcame a 0-3 deficit in set three against his hard-hitting Swiss opponent. Breaking serve on four occasions, Zverev hit two aces and won 67 percent of his first serve points.

Wawrinka, who was aiming to win his fifth title of the year, lost his first final since s-Hertogenbosch in 2013.

*****

MOSELLE OPEN—METZ, FRANCE

Frenchman Lucas Pouille continued his great year on Tour by winning his first career title in Metz, France on Sunday. Defeating top seed Dominic Thiem 7-6(5), 6-2, Pouille improved to 30-18 on the season and 2-0 against Thiem in lifetime meetings. Needing only one hour and 18 minutes to seal his victory, Pouille struck 10 aces and broke the serve of his Austrian opponent on two occasions. Reaching both the quarterfinals of Wimbledon and the US Open, Pouille will likely hit a career high of No. 16 in the world on Monday.

Thiem, who was in search of his fifth title of 2016, fell to 55-18 on the year.

Tennis Elbow: How will tennis remember Stan Wawrinka?

September 19, 2016

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon ponders Stan Wawrinka’s place in history.

Oddly enough, it seems like Stanislas Wawrinka learned he could win by losing a match.

The story has taken a life of its own, and should continue to do so with every title the 31-year-old adds to his name, but it bears repeating here. In the fourth round of the 2013 Australian Open, Wawrinka lost an absolute thrilling match against eventual winner Novak Djokovic, battling until 12-10 in the fifth set.

Wawrinka called this loss “the best match I’ve ever played,” so it’s not like we’re pulling at strings with our opener, right? This was indeed quite a turning point in his career. “At the end I was really, really close. For sure I’m really sad. It’s a big disappointment to lose that match, but I think there are more positives than negatives.”

You could say that.

Fast forward for three years, and the great Roger Federer appears done, with the result that the other Swiss Guy has become the foremost Swiss Guy on the ATP World Tour. What was once a Big Three plus Andy Murray has morphed into Djokovic’s world in 2016, with Wawrinka standing right behind him as the most dangerous player on Tour.

The Swiss is now ranked No. 3 and now has three different Grand Slam titles to his name: the 2014 Australian Open, the 2015 Roland Garros and the 2016 US Open. And really, considering Wawrinka beat the Serb on his way to each of his three titles, maybe it’s Wawrinka who’s the most dangerous player in the world?

In any case, we would venture to say that the 31-year-old is not likely to be forgotten by tennis pundits. Long after he’s retired, we’re convinced we’ll still remember the other Swiss Guy who managed to emerge from Federer’s large shadow in the latter part of his playing days.

In 2016, Wawrinka is known for his self-belief, the way he seemingly is convinced that no match is out of his reach—regardless of the situation. During matches, after an important game, you may catch him pointing to his temple; keep believing, and everything will take care of itself. Wawrinka has a life mantra that he found in the words of poet Samuel Beckett, one he’s permanently inscribed on his left arm three years ago (again: we told you that this Australian Open loss was a turning point for him. “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

While the hard truth and numbers seems to put the Swiss in company with very strong players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych, history will likely be kinder to him than it will to this trio. For one thing, Wawrinka has won his last 11 Tour finals. The Swiss has thee career Grand Slam titles, which is an outlier compared to Tsonga and co. but is right on part with Murray. He also is the oldest player to win the US Open in four decades, and the fifth in the Open era to grab multiple titles after turning 30.

History tends to love a winner and will love Wawrinka. In the same way that Murray never quite reached the heights of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer but stood out so much above his peers, Wawrinka is not quite an Andy Murray but he’s quite a bit above Tsonga’s level. He’s won only 23 % of his matches against the Big Four, but 59% of them against Tsonga, Ferrer and Berdych.

This, to me, means that among this era, history will remember Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, then Murray, and then Wawrinka.

Where the Swiss does distinguish himself is how he plays in the biggest matches if he manages to get there. “He plays best in the big matches,” Djokovic said after losing the US Open final. “He definitely deserves to be mentioned in the mix of top players.”

Wawrinka has been an afterthought for most of his career. But history will remember him as anything but.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

Argentina to face Croatia in 2016 Davis Cup Final

September 18, 2016

WORLD GROUP SEMI-FINALS

ARGENTINA 3 GREAT BRITAIN 2
Venue: Emirates Arena, Glasgow, GBR (hard – indoor)

Andy MURRAY (GBR) d Guido PELLA (ARG) 63 62 63
Leonardo MAYER (ARG) d Daniel EVANS (GBR) 46 63 62 64

*****

CROATIA 3 FRANCE 1
Venue: Kresimir Cosic Hall, Zadar, CRO (hard – indoor)

Marin CILIC (CRO) d Richard GASQUET (FRA) 63 62 75

Del Potro leads Argentina to 2-0 over Great Britain in Davis Cup semifinal; Croatia, France tied at 1-1

September 16, 2016

DAVIS CUP SEMI-FINALS

GREAT BRITAIN 0 ARGENTINA 1

Venue: Emirates Arena, Glasgow, GBR (hard – indoor)

Juan Martin DEL POTRO (ARG) d Andy MURRAY (GBR) 64 57 67(5) 63 64
Guido PELLA (ARG) d Kyle EDMUND (GBR)  67(5) 64 63 62

CROATIA 1 FRANCE 1

Venue: Kresimir Cosic Hall, Zadar, CRO (hard – indoor)

Richard GASQUET (FRA) d. Borna CORIC (CRO) 62 76(5) 61
Marin CILIC (CRO) d Lucas POUILLE (FRA) 61 76(5) 26 62

Tennis Elbow: The Angelique Kerber takeover is complete

September 12, 2016

Getty Images

Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2016 US Open on the women’s side.

Would she win it all?

That was the only question left, I guess, whether Angelique Kerber would crash the party through the front or the back door.

Before she even played her US Open semifinal match, Kerber was guaranteed to become the new WTA No. 1 player in the world, ending Serena Williams’s string of 186 consecutive weeks at the top when the American lost her semifinal against Karolina Pliskova.

You can’t win for losing, they tell you, but that’s always false and we would have had a prime example of that had Kerber then lost her own semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki.

Only, as she so often has done in 2016, the German did not lose, beating the former No. 1 and two-time US Open finalist by the score of 6-4 and 6-3.

From there, Kerber moved on to the final, her third major final of the 2016 season after having made only one Grand Slam semifinal in 32 events through the end of last year. She won that match too, beating Pliskova by the score of 6-3, 4-6 and 6-4, and is now the reigning US Open champion and overall best player in the world.

This week, she’s ranked No. 1 for the first time of her career and, at 28 years old, is the oldest player to get there. She’s the first lefty player at the top of the rankings since Monica Seles, and only the third in history (with Martina Navratilova). Kerber is also the first new No. 1 player in four years, having as we mentioned before cut Williams’s reign short. She also denies Williams a shot at history, leaving her stuck at 22 career Grand Slams and in a tie with Steffi Graf for most in history.

All of it wasn’t lost on Kerber after her semifinal win. “It’s just incredible,” she said. “Yeah, it’s a great day. […] To be in the final, to be No. 1 in the world, it sounds amazing.”

Because of how she got to No. 1, Kerber may not stay there long: the problem with making three Grand Slam finals in a year, and winning two, is that you then need to turn around the following season and win just as many matches. You’ve done it once, so do it again. That’s tennis.

(And that’s what makes Williams so exceptional, that she managed to remain so dominant and consistent over the years.)

One other thing we can confidently say is that Kerber will not be the third player in history to reign over the WTA for 186 consecutive weeks. Kerber is already 28, after all. And what does it take to stay on top for so long? Consider that over that span at No. 1, Williams won more titles than she lost matches (i.e. 24 versus 19).

We’re unlikely to see another such run, at least not for a little while, and parity will likely become the new normal on the WTA. Maybe that’s what will make women’s tennis fascinating over the years. “I think I’m ready to have this pressure [of being No. 1] on my shoulders,” Kerber said after her US Open win. “I think I get used to all of this, especially after my first Grand Slam in Australia. I had so much pressure after the title. Being No. 1, of course, now everybody will try to beat me and have nothing to lose.”

Yes, all the pressure’s on you from now on, Kerber.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG

PODCAST: Reviewing the 2016 US Open

September 11, 2016

Welcome back to the TennisConnected Podcast for 2016, brought to you by Grand Slam Tennis Tours.

In this week’s show, Parsa Samii and Nima Naderi return to review the US Open from New York. With the final slam of the year complete, we look back at the incredible efforts of Angie Kerber and Stan Wawrinka as they claimed the top prize in NYC. We also discuss the packed summer schedule, and the efforts of Novak Djokovic, Serena Wiliams, Rafael Nadal, Karolina Pliskova and Caroline Wozniacki throughout the US Open.

As always, you can alternatively listen to the #1 tennis PodCast via iTunes and never miss another episode. It is very easy and completely free.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Stan Wawrinka wins US Open title over Novak Djokovic in four sets

September 11, 2016

US Open—New York, New York

No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka won his third career Grand Slam title on Sunday in Flushing Meadows, New York, defeating top seed Novak Djokovic 6-7(1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3. In a match that lasted three hours and 54 minutes, Wawrinka struck 46 winners to 51 unforced errors and broke serve on six occasions. Winning his fifth career match against Djokovic in their last 25 meetings, Wawrinka is now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals and has won his last 11 finals on Tour. The Swiss great, who is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, also defeated Kei Nishikori, Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Verdasco earlier in the event. Wawrinka also saved a match point against Dan Evans in the third round.

Djokovic, who was aiming to win his 13th Major, walks away with two Slam victories in 2016. The Serb won in Australia and finished off his Grand Slam collection at the French Open in early June.

All sights will now turn to Melbourne, Australia and the first Major of 2017 in January.

Kerber wins US Open title over Pliskova

September 10, 2016

US Open—New York, New York

No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber one her first-ever US Open title on Saturday in three sets over Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in Flushing Meadows. In a match that took two hours and seven minutes to complete, Kerber struck 21 winners to 17 unforced errors, and more importantly broke the serve of her powerful opponent on four occasions. Winning the Australian Open to begin the year and reaching the finals of Wimbledon in a losing effort to Serena Williams, Kerber has proven without a shadow of a doubt to be the No. 1 player in 2016. The German will officially be the top ranked player in the world on Monday.

Pliskova, who enjoyed a tremendous tournament, defeated Serena and Venus Williams along the way to her finals showing. The Czech player will move up to No. 6 in the world when the latest rankings are released.

US Open 2016: Men’s Final Preview: Djokovic vs. Wawrinka

September 10, 2016

by: Nima Naderi

The 2016 US Open men’s final will feature Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic has breezed into his seventh final in NYC, losing two sets along the way but only playing three complete matches. His semifinal against Gael Monfils did pose some relative struggles, but that was much more in the way of the heat and humidity than his opponent. In stark contrast, Wawrinka has clawed tooth and nail to reach his third Major final. Taking out former top tenner Fernando Verdasco in the opening round, Wawrinka also defeated the likes of former winner Juan Martin del Potro and former finalist Kei Nishikori, while saving a match point against Dan Evans in the third round. To say that Wawrinka is primed and ready for the finals would be accurate, while suggesting that Djokovic hasn’t been tested and could be under matched is also accurate.

With the table set for Sunday’s finale, let’s take a look at how it could play out.

Novak Djokovic vs. Stan Wawrinka (Djokovic leads the pair’s head-to-head 20-4)

If their H2H is any indication, Djokovic should walk away with Sunday’s title in Queens in comfortable fashion. But when you dig deeper through the 24 lines of their previous matches, you’ll notice that all of their encounters that have meant the most, have been extremely tight. Let’s first begin with Wawrinka’s victory at Roland Garros last year over Djokovic in four sets, which followed his five set victory over Nole in the 2014 Australian Open quarterfinal, a tournament which Wawrinka also won. The two have played in New York before—another five setter in 2013, won by Djokovic).

Simply put, these two match up well and that’s why their biggest matches have been good ones. Now, as we head into Sunday’s contest, here’s how it could unfold: Djokovic will clearly be the fresher of the two, but may not have the same feel for his shots like Wawrinka will have. If Stan can get through the first 90 minutes of the match with a lead, then I believe that he is in good shape to take the title. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I took Wawrinka to win this title, and I’ll stick with that pick. I believe that Stan is one of the only players in the world that can truly hurt Djokovic off of every single shot. With the court in NYC playing slower this year (similar to Australia), Wawrinka will feel right at home against Djokovic’s baseline attack. That said, Djokovic is the best player in the world for a reason. He finds ways to win and has gained the experience to deal with almost every situation. The only way to really shut down the Serb is to take the racket out of his hand. Wawrinka can certainly do that.

Judging by Sunday’s forecast, it’s set to be another hot one. That should favor Wawrinka because of his overall strength and power. To conclude, Djokovic is the better mover of the two, while Wawrinka holds the power quotient. I’m a firm believer that power, when played the right way will defeat foot speed in the modern game. That’s exactly how Wawrinka defeated Djokovic along the way to his two Grand Slam titles, and that’s exactly how he’ll do it again on Sunday. Although five sets would be great to see, look for Wawrinka to capture his third career Major over Djokovic in four sets.

Next Page »