'Butt-kicked' Bouchard confronts crisis of confidence

'Butt-kicked' Bouchard confronts crisis of confidence
Canada's Eugenie Bouchard returns the ball to France's Kristina Mladenovic during the women's first round of the Roland Garros 2015 French Tennis Open in Paris on May 26, 2015.

PARIS - From corporate sports dream girl with a fondness for Justin Bieber to accusations of being a pouting prima donna, it's been a long year for Eugenie Bouchard.

Blonde, athletic and oozing an unshakable self-confidence, Bouchard was being touted as tennis's natural heir to Maria Sharapova in 2014 when she swept to the semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens and a runners-up spot at Wimbledon.

But fast forward to 2015 and with even grizzled coach Sam Sumyk admitting that the Canadian poster girl is a target for getting "her butt kicked", the 21-year-old is facing a worrying crisis of her rock-solid self-belief.

On Tuesday, she suffered the first ever opening round defeat of her young Grand Slam career, a dispiriting 6-4, 6-4 French Open exit at the hands of Kristina Mladenovic.

It was her eighth loss in her last nine outings and having failed to defend the windfall of points she earned by making the semi-finals at Roland Garros last year, Bouchard is looking at slipping out of the world top 10.

Her predicament will be even worse if she flops at Wimbledon where last year she was courted by media and public alike for her tales of being named in honour of Princess Eugenie, the grand-daughter of Queen Elizabeth.

Her stock rose further at the All England Club when her fascination with social media, pop bad boy Bieber and Jim Parsons, the actor who portrays science geek Sheldon Cooper in hit TV series The Big Bang Theory, accompanied her to the final.

"At this point I had no expectations coming in (to the French Open). I have no expectations for the foreseeable future," was Bouchard's blunt assessment after her defeat to Mladenovic.

The world number six was right to be bleak.

Her only quarter-final appearance this year came at the Australian Open in January and her 2015 claycourt season will show just one win - over Zarina Diyas in Rome.

In between, she also lost two Fed Cup rubbers against Romania where she again attracted criticism for refusing to shake the hand of her opponents at the draw ceremony.

She argues it's a "lame" tradition; her critics accuse her of simple bad manners.

"When you have good results and climb up in the rankings, you enter the realm of the most hated players... everyone wants to kick your butt," Sumyk told L'Equipe.

Sumyk has been Bouchard's coach since January having spent the best part of five years guiding Victoria Azarenka to two Australian Open titles and the world number one spot.

But so far, that stardust has not settled on the shoulders of Bouchard.

"You have several choices in a storm. You can get depressed, attach a weight to your leg and jump off a bridge. Or, if you have character, and I think my player has lots of character, you bounce back," said Sumyk.

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