Last night, all eyes were on Eugenie Bouchard as she played her first tennis match since her significant legal victory against the US Tennis Association (USTA). After receiving a wild card to the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, Bouchard lost to American qualifier Sachia Vickery in straight sets.Embed from Getty Images
Bouchard’s ranking is outside the top 100 and there are no signs that she is set to turn around her fortune after an indifferent 2018 on the court. Having been offered wild cards in Hobart, Taipei City and now Indian Wells, fans and pundits alike are starting to question why she is receiving so many. And with Wimbledon just around the corner, the Canadian may require a wild card for direct entrance into the tournament she was a finalist at just four years ago.
But does she deserve one?
USTA court case
At the US Open in 2015, Eugenie Bouchard famously slipped and had concussion ahead of her fourth round tie versus eventual finalist Roberta Vinci. Bouchard was unable to play and was forced to withdraw from the tournament. For the rest of 2015, Bouchard would only play one more match, at the China Open. Here, she again had to retire early on after experiencing dizziness during her match against Andrea Petkovic.
Fast-forward two and a half years and Bouchard is sitting outside the top 100 having experienced below-par performances on the court, especially when compared to the standard she set for herself in 2014. In February, a jury found that the USTA was 75% at fault for the Canadian’s fall and concussion at Flushing Meadows, which would see Bouchard and the USTA agree a private compensation package. The next week, it was announced that Bouchard was to be offered her third main draw wild card of the season at the BNP Paribas Open.
After being so outspoken about Maria Sharapova being offered wild cards into tournaments, the same is now happening with the Canadian. In Hobart, Bouchard – then ranked at 83 – lost in the opening round to Aryna Sabalenka. After losing to Simona Halep at the Australian Open second round, Bouchard was then offered a wild card to compete at the Taiwan Open. Here, Bouchard performed better, defeating both Lin Zhu and Ana Bodgan before losing to Yafan Wang 6-4 6-0 in the quarter finals.
With just three wins under her belt, Bouchard was then invited to the main draw at Indian Wells, much to the disbelief of some tennis fans. However, following the USTA court case, it’s easy to see why she was offered this free passage.
When the draw came, it looked like the Canadian would show the world why she deserved her wild card. After drawing Sachia Vickery in the opening round, a rare 2018 win looked likely. However, this wasn’t the case. A 6-3 6-4 defeat means Bouchard’s reign outside the top 100 is set to continue.
With this drastic drop in form, the wild cards could start to stop. Previously, the WTA has restricted players receiving wild cards to three, unless the player is a former Grand Slam or Master champion. Bouchard is neither. It is very possible, then, that Wimbledon might have to make a decision as to whether to offer a wild card to Bouchard.
Does Eugenie Bouchard deserve a Wimbledon wild card?
This a very difficult question. On one hand, Eugenie Bouchard is a former finalist and a well-known name to people who don’t necessarily follow tennis religiously. On the other, it’s easy to speculate what Bouchard’s commitment to tennis really is.Embed from Getty Images
More people may know her from her bikini shoots with Sports Illustrated, rather than her aggressive play on the court. Her recent form isn’t to be desired and, as more defeats happen, we will see whether Bouchard really is committed to play qualifying at low-level WTA events.
Time will tell, but back to the question at hand. As a former finalist, Bouchard definitely should not be overlooked for a wild card. However, the likes of Victoria Azarenka, Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki could also require one, as well as British hopefuls, such as Harriet Dart, Naomi Broady Katy Dunne, Katie Boulter and Gabriella Taylor. (Did someone mention Laura Robson?). With wild cards restricted to ten, and with British women’s tennis looking strong this year, Bouchard may need to scrap it out to earn her place among the Wimbledon elite.
Whether she will is another question.