The theme of the match was Genie Bouchard, her emergence. That’s what the moment was about. Tennis has a new superstar, one who is young, fresh, and tough as nails with marketers already drooling over her good looks.
Come see her crowning.
Well, the match didn’t live up to that. The other person won. It wasn’t even close. Petra Kvitova won 6-3, 6-0 in 55 minutes, playing great and knocking Bouchard into a stupor. That’s two Wimbedon titles for Kvitova, who came from nowhere to win the first one three years ago, when she was 21, and then disappeared for three years, and now came back to win again.
The problem is that the match never was going to be about Kvitova. The tennis world just saw Kvitova, loaded with talent but not enough focus or footwork, put it together again for two weeks and win Wimbledon. I wish I had the feeling that the rest of the sports world saw it that way, and not, roughly, this way:
That next-generation Canadian Sharapova lost. Big time. With Sheldon, from Big Bang Theory watching.
You know how people dress up to play a character on TV, and then look totally different when you see them on the late-night shows or something? Sheldon — Jim Parsons — wore a suit and sunglasses in the friends box at Wimbledon and it was incredible: Even without his Flash shirt, he still managed to look like a science geek anyway.
In fact, it looked as if he had beamed himself into Centre Court and was trying to remain incognito.
Honestly, I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Bouchard now. This hurt her. She doesn’t look quite as sure of a sure thing as she did before the match. She is just 20, and has reached the semis in two majors and the finals in one this year. She has played in just six majors, and is already the most consistent player in majors on tour this year.
But, as ESPN’s business writer, Darren Rovell tweeted after the match, “Marketers now face dilemma. Is she worth big $?” He had said just before the match that she was poised to be an ad idol.
I think they will, on spec. She is still the most marketable new face to come out of this tennis season, and tennis is still the only women’s sport to have broken into the mainstream. Bouchard is too hot of a prospect to let someone else get to first.
That said, she was demolished Saturday, and didn’t even make it a fight.
Anyway, welcome back, Petra Kvitova. Welcome to the Hall of Fame when it’s all over for you. Which won’t be for another decade.
She is just 24 and had somehow managed to already be forgotten. She didn’t fit in with the 30-something stars, Serena Williams and Li Na. She hadn’t done enough to
match up with Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka, and she was too old to mix with the emerging generation of Simona Halep and Bouchard.
Yet she now has won as many majors at Andy Roddick and Michael Chang combined. What are we supposed to do with her now?9
That’s up to her. If she can play this way, and keep her head on straight and not disappear during matches, then she can win a lot more majors. I remember talking with her in Cincinnati after she won Wimbledon three years ago, and she seemed so shy and reserved. She had trouble handling questions about how her life was changing.
She was in over her head, not as far as her tennis ability, but instead in her ability to handle the moment. Three years older now, she might be mature enough and experienced enough to find consistency at this level.
Don’t bet on that, though.
Still, on Saturday, she was incredible. And while the match was a complete bore, that wasn’t her fault.
Kvitova was crushing the ball like no one I’ve ever seen, man or woman. When she’s on, like she was on Saturday, it is a rush to watch her. You know how a lot of these top women grunt/scream all the time when they hit the ball?
In this case, it was the ball that was screaming.
Kvitova throws knockout punches every time she swings the racquet. There is no math or Federer-like probability factored in. And when she misses? Well, so what? The ball will be back for another beating in a few seconds.
So it’s thrilling when someone stands up to that, the way Venus Williams did earlier in the tournament. But what Bouchard did?
Sometimes in tennis, someone like Kvitova can get on a roll and there’s nothing you can do about it. But you can at least try.
Bouchard did nothing, tried nothing. She stayed on the baseline to pressure Kvitova’s serve. I love that tactic. But it wasn’t working. So Bouchard needed to adjust and adapt. Move back, move over to cut off the slice serve. Try serving and volleying a few times to break the rhythm of Kvitova’s return.
Dink. Slice. Stall.
Even take a fake bathroom break. Something. Anything. There is a fine line between stubbornness and stupidity.
One problem with women’s tennis is that nearly all of these women play exactly the same way. Gameplan: Hit hard into open space. The end.
If Bouchard has no Plan B, then she might not go as far as everyone thought, say 24 hours ago. She does pressure the server and is relentless and has good size. We’ll find out now, in her handling of this embarrassment, how tough she really is.
Kvitova might be on her way to becoming one of tennis’ all-time greats, even though most people, in the U.S., anyway, haven’t heard of her more than a few days at two Wimbledons three years apart.
And Bouchard? Women’s tennis’ great new hope is now also its biggest question mark. And that sounds like a practical joke.