Thursday, July 3, 2014

The 2014 Wimbledon Ladies Final: Petra Kvitova(6) vs Eugenie Bouchard (13)

by Savannah

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via Getty Images

So the WTA's favorite, Eugenie Bouchard of Canada,has made her first WTA Grand Slam Final. She'll face Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic on Saturday.

What is wrong with that first statement? Everything. It's a statement of the sad truth about the WTA as it is currently administered. The WTA as an organization should have no favorite other than the sport of women's tennis. Instead we've had Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki and now Eugenie Bouchard. All that's missing is the nickname Stacey Allaster will give fellow Canadian Bouchard.

There seems to be a surprise among WTA officials about the depth of dislike for Bouchard. I mean she's 19, she's blonde, she speaks unaccented English despite being from Québec. What's not to like right?

I can only speak for myself. The first time I heard Bouchard do an interview my reaction was "who the hell does she think she is?" She spoke as if she is the only woman to every play at a highly competitive level. She makes no apologies for her abrasive manner and we fans are being encouraged to love her. She's already said that the tour is not the place for friendship echoing Sharapova, and when asked how she feels about her success this year in effect says it's her due after working hard. No "I'm happy to have been so fortunate to do well", or my team and I have worked hard for this. Nope. It's what she's supposed to achieve. She's entitled to the success. Aren't you charmed? I know I am.

You know I've been following tennis for a long time, much longer than I've been writing about it and I remember other brash, confident young women, sisters. In fact the younger sister was more verbally self confident than the older, more willing to speak the truth about her abilities on the tennis court. She said that if she loses the fault lies with her, not that her opponent played better. She was vilified in the tennis press and among tennis fans. There was no head of the WTA to try and brand her brashness as charming even if it was the truth. The younger sister has become more media savvy and says all the right things in her pressers now no matter how painful it is for her. I wonder what the difference is between that younger sister and Ms Bouchard, a difference that makes one charming and the other "arrogant" or "uppity".

There will actually be another blonde taking the court Saturday. Her name is Petra Kvitova and she's already won a Slam. She admitted that going from the hunter to the hunted wasn't easy for her. I watched her play her countrywoman Lucie Safarova today and after a tight first set she ran away with the second set. Kind of like what happened in the second semifinal but for different reasons.

Readers know that I've always said a soft draw does not a champion make so let's look at the path Bouchard and Kvitova took to the final.

Bouchard's path to the Final: Hantuchova (Unseeded) Soler-Espinosa (Unseeded) Petkovic (20) Cornet(25) Kerber(9) Halep (3)

Petra Kvitova's route to the Final. Hlavackova unseeded. Barthel unseeded. Venus seeded #30. Peng unseeded. BZS unseeded. Safarova #23.

If I follow my own belief it'll be Bouchard who'll hoist the Rosewater Dish Saturday. With the exception of Cornet the seeds she played increased in ranking as she moved into the semi final where she faced the #3 seed. The highest seed Kvitova faced was #23 Safarova.

I don't see Lucie achieving much more in her career. She's stuck being the player with a lot of talent but unable to maximize it. Simona Halep has been playing a lot of matches and her ranking can be said to be artificially high because of that. Her performance in today's semi echoed that of her appearance in the FO final. Mentally she's not able to stay with the big hitters. It's as if she gets intimidated and crawls into a safe place in her mind. Bouchard may have an ugly style of play but on grass and hardcourts she will do well because she hits the snot out of the ball from the baseline. I'm not going to talk about how the same people singing Bouchard's praises from the roof tops profess to hate that style of play. I'm not writing that long a piece here. I do think that if Halep continues to plug away and gets a real draw instead of a cupcake draw, a draw that will challenge her to sharpen her skills, she'll win one of the semifinals or finals of majors that she makes.

This Final will say a lot about where the WTA is heading. We'll even have the modern replacements for Justine Henin and Carolos Rodriguez in terms of blatant coaching. IT seems to be true that the more things change the more things stay the same.


Fred66 said...

Let me give you two more reasons to dislike Bouchard, Savannah; her saying in an interview that if she could invite an historical figure for dinner it would be Ronald Reagan, because he was "the best president ever", and even worse that her role model is Donald Trump, because she finds him "inspirational". Ever since that day, I've never looked at her the same again. I hope Kvitova takes her down a few notches.

Savannah said...

Thanks for the information Fred66. Just like Isner's "God's country" comments after losing at the US Open and his more recent comments about travel abroad these comments show you what world these players live in. I caught hell from someone on Twitter calling her an "entitled rich bitch". Shows I was right.

Karen Williams said...

One of the reasons why I have liked Bouchard is because she was so unassuming. She was not given to histrionics, i.e. begging people to like her. She is confident, maybe too much, but that is what I like to see in players. I wish Halep was a little more confident and a tad more in your face, but that will come over time. Bouchard has a chip on her shoulder. There is a reason she is not into the friendly situation on the WTA Tour. She is trying to prove that she is more than a blonde bombshell and frankly kudos to her for that. Kvitova will have to play very well to beat her on Saturday. She is going to try and run Kvitova ragged & if Kvitova's fitness is not up to par, we could see a straight set match.

Randy Burgess said...

I too dislike Bouchard, and for much the same reasons as have been raised here. The other day I was trying to puzzle it out: normally I don't have such a negative reaction to a player's personna, so why do I in this case?

I guess it's that I think Bouchard's brashness is more than just brashness; it verges on insensitivity or perhaps even callousness. She tweeted the other day, after she won her semi, that what she does for a living is "tough work." I tweeted a reply in which I suggested that playing tennis for a living is not tough work in comparison to being a cashier (thankless boring work on your feet for low wages), digging ditches (though I should have used some other category of manual labor that is less cliche, I suppose), or many other kinds of work that truly *are* tough. What Bouchard is engaged in right now is a glamour job. I guess at age 19 she doesn't realize this.

I can't believe I missed the final today vs. Kvitova - the first big Wimbie match that I missed and apparently it was a great one! At least from the Kvitova side. I'm not a big Kvitova fan, either, but I certainly have nothing against her & I would have liked to see the big precise hitting that got so much attention. I guess I'll see it on replay.

I also agree that the marketing of tennis these days is very strange, esp. in the U.S. I have been watching my tennis mostly via ESPN3, and I cannot fathom the peculiar marketing campaign created for Wimbledon: specifically, the weird, flirtatious closeup camera shots of tennis celebrities including Sharapova and (good gosh) Milos Raonic doing baby-eyes and mugging. I have no idea who thought this up or why.

MJ said...

We did see a straight set match. :)

Karen Williams said...

Randy, with all due respect, professional sport is a tough job. The rewards may be greater than for those who earn minimum wage, but for all the Bouchards in the world, there are the ones who don't even break even as a professional player. Tennis is littered with many players who had so much potential, and who can't even make ends meet. Casey Dellacqua actually left tennis and went to do hairdressing because she could no longer survive. Timea of Switzerland, went back to school and contemplated quitting because she was not able to maintain herself on Tour, and don't get me started on the men. There are so many of them who have to be bunking with tennis fans when they travel just to be able to compete in tournaments, and God forbid you should get injured. This is the reason why the ATP now has a pension plan for its players. The WTA does not, I think, have a pension plan at this time.

These players train for years and years, putting in a lot of hard work. The rewards may be great, but we as fans need to think about all that these people have to go through just to make it to where they are right now.

Jon said...

Well said Karen! I'm a huge Savannah blog fan, but this all feels like judgement by skin color. I cringe at the behaviour of MaScreecher Sharabetes, but Ms. Bouchard has performed well for a modern day 20 year old. I'd love to see her evolve. I'd also love to see Serena return to form/motivation.

Also, when I was 21 I actually voted for Regan. I was so young dumb and full of .... It's easy to think that everyone owns their own destiny when you are a successful young adult. Later on you learn that the game can be rigged.

Savannah said...

Hi Jon. Thanks for tkaing time for posting.

I just don't understand how I'm upset at the hype around Bouchard because of her race when I've said time and time again that the one who should be getting the hype is Simona Halep. Last I checked she would be considered caucasian.

If the WTA put half the effort it's putting into Ms Bouchard into promoting women's tennis as a whole no one would be upset and there wouldn't be such a backlash against the Canadian woman.

Randy Burgess said...

Karen, I do agree with you that professional tennis can be a very hard job indeed - most especially for the players on the lower rungs who have to grind for every dollar, have no job security, and don't get perks. And even for the top players, my guess is that despite the cushy aspects of private jets and massive endorsements and appearance fees, it's still quite often a strange and difficult lifestyle, emotionally and physically.

Along those lines, since as I remember you're a Federer fan, you may appreciate this tidbit: Over on C Note's corporate blog (that's how I refer to what used to be called Beyond the Baseline, and today is just "si.comi/tennis"), she posted a short video piece on the "single tear" shed by Federer after he lost the Wimbie final. The piece drew two reader comments. The first was from RobbyJoe70, who wrote: "Waah . . . my life is so hard, I only have 7 Wimbledons and 17 slams overall. I make 70 million a year." And the second was from Ali Akhtar, who wrote: "Uh, yeah OK. When you tran and train, and punish your body for 7 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, with weights, fitness regimen, diet, and countless hours of drills/practice, and then you get all the way to a major final, and then all the way deep into a 5th set, and come so agonizingly close after a huge comeback, and then lose . . . then we'll see what a cool, smiling stoic you are."

I thought that put it pretty nicely. Whether it's Federer or whomever. Yes, the top players (even on the womnen's side though they don't get nearly the endorsement money) have a ridiculously grand lifestyle compared to most of us - but they are still human. And we humans want to work hard for a meaningful life no matter how much or how little money we have.

So with Bouchard, what I'm really objecting to is something that exists as much or more in my mind than in reality. I don't know her obviously. I just figure she's a kid of 19 who doesn't yet appreciate that there are lots harder jobs than hers. When I go to the supermarket and I see a woman who's been standing at that cash register for 7 hours straight, handling the monotony and the customers as best she can, and still summoning up a smile for those who smile back at her; and hopefully getting health insurance, but maybe not; and so on and so forth - well, that simple job and so many other jobs are a lot tougher than Genie Bouchard can possibly realize with her 19 short years. I am looking for something a bit more human and humble in her tweets. I do hope she grows up. But then again, I hope I grow up too someday.

Savannah said...

Randy that is a great post. Thank you.

Ms Bouchard is from a very wealthy family from an upper class section of Montréal. The reality of that cashier isn't hers and will never be. Yes her arrogance is that of the young but I don't think it's going to go away as she gets older. She's lived a charmed life born on third base as the saying goes here and her sense of entitlement will grow not lessen.

I think what Karen sees as unassuming I see as her sense of entitlement. As the child of wealthy parents she's never questioned her place in the world and expects to be admired.

The backlash against Bouchard is very strong and I'm sure Allaster has noticed it especially since a lot of anger is being directed towards her bringing into question how she's running the WTA. If "Sunshine" hadn't happened maybe fans would be more forgiving and willing to see what happens going forward. "Sunshine" did happen though and no one wants another one shoved down their throats.

Karen Williams said...

Randy/Savannah, I do get the backlash about Bouchard and yes she can do with a bit of media training etc. The thing with Bouchard is that she has a chip on her shoulder precisely because of how she was raised. Believe it or not just as people who are poor always believe that people who have money don't understand suffering and hard work, people who are rich are clueless about how the rest of the world works. See Mitt Romney for evidence.

I do get what you are all saying about Bouchard and one can only hope that as she gets older and more mature and she starts losing more then she will appreciate winning. I recall one Federer who had to learn how to lose gracefully the hard way.

Allaster is very wrong with the way she has gone about anointing Bouchard. It started at the 40th Anniversary of the WTA at Wimbledon and it has continued until then. It was supposed to be another Maria/Serena for the up and comers with Sloane being touted as the next Serena. That has not happened and despite poor Halep's best efforts, she is seen as the third wheel in a dating couple. I am just waiting for her to win that Grand Slam and then we will see what the WTA will do then