They were the ‘it’ players of the 2014 season whereby both made a Grand Slam final, both cracked the top five rankings, both won at least one title and both qualified for their maiden WTA Finals. Moreover, both possess a game built on aggression and defence. Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard finished the year 2014 ranked third and seventh respectively and all eyes were on both women in 2015 to see how they would back up their stellar breakout 2014 season.However, their careers have pulled in the opposite directions, with one continuing to cement her place in the top rankings whilst the other struggling to find her game on the court. By the end of last year, Halep was second best in the world to Serena Williams whereas Bouchard was almost out of the top 50 at number 48.
Tennis results in 2015
Bouchard began the 2015 season by partnering compatriot Vasek Pospisil in the exhibitionary Hopman Cup. There, they bowed out in the group stage but Bouchard did score a win over Serena Williams in the tie against the United States.
She then flew to Melbourne for the Australian Open and had the weight of defending semifinalist points from last year. Bouchard lived up to her seventh seeding, safely advancing to the quarterfinals where she was stopped by Maria Sharapova. However the following month, she was dumped out in her opening match in Antwerp by Mona Barthel.
The Canadian looked to have steadied the ship by scoring wins over Lucie Hradecka and CoCo Vandeweghe to reach the round of 16 in Indian Wells. She was however puzzlingly beaten by Lesia Tsurenko in three sets. This point henceforth, Bouchard endured a five-match losing streak stretching from the hardcourts of Miami to the dirt of Madrid.
She ended this losing streak in Rome, defeating Zarina Diyas in her opener in straight sets but was then outclassed by eventual runner-up Carla Suárez Navarro. Things did not go better for the Canadian at the French Open where she stumbled in the opening round against an inspired Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic, this was Bouchard’s first opening round loss at a Grand Slam. She dropped out of the top 10 after her early exit in Paris.
Being the Wimbledon runner-up from a year ago, Bouchard looked to finally turn her season around for the better. However, nothing went in her favour when she managed to just collect one win from the four grass tournaments she played, the win coming over Alison Riske in Eastbourne. In her next match, she was forced to retire with an abdominal injury whilst trailing a set and a break to the eventual champion Belinda Bencic.
She was not able to recover from the injury in time for Wimbledon and suffered her second consecutive opening round loss at a Grand Slam, this time in the hands of Chinese qualifier Duan Ying-Ying. Her ranking fell from 12th to 25th after Wimbledon concluded.
For the second year in a row, Bouchard went winless at her home tournament, the Rogers Cup, falling to Bencic in three sets. After beating Kateryna Bondarenko in the opening round of Cincinnati, she was denied a place in the round of 16 after bowing out to Elina Svitolina. In New Haven, she suffered a thumping opening round defeat in the hands of Roberta Vinci, having manage to win just one game.
At the final Grand Slam of the year the US Open, Bouchard finally scored consecutive wins for the first time since the Australian Open, beating the likes of Riske, Polona Hercog, and Dominika Cibulkova. In the round of 16, the Canadian unfortunately conceded a walkover to Vinci, the eventual runner-up after sustaining a concussion as a result of a fall which occurred in the locker room. The issue eventually resulted in a lawsuit filed by Bouchard against the USTA.
She went on to play just one more match for the remainder of the year at the China Open where she retired down a set to Andrea Petkovic, clearly still troubled by the after-effects of the concussion. The Canadian’s 2015 record stood at 12-18 compared to her 2014’s 45-23. Half of her 12 victories came at the Australian Open and the US Open.
Halep kicked off her 2015 campaign in Shenzhen where she sailed through to the title, beating Swiss Timea Bacsinszky in the final. At the Australian Open, the Romanian was one of the favourites for the title and did not drop a set en route to the quarterfinals. There, she was sent packing in a shocking loss to Ekaterina Makarova.
Halep rebounded remarkably well by winning her second title of the year in Dubai with the season just less than two months old, outclassing Karolina Pliskova in straight sets for the title. Having won Doha in 2014, Halep completed the Middle East sweep with the Dubai trophy.
There was no stopping for Halep come March as she lifted her third trophy of the year in Indian Wells. This time however, she was forced to grind her way back into the match before prevailing over 2010 champion Jelena Jankovic. She continued her stellar form with a run to the Miami semifinals where she gave eventual champion Serena Williams a run for her money.
Entering the clay court season which is the Romanian’s best surface, things looked routine at first when recorded a semifinal appearance in Stuttgart. However in Madrid, she crashed out in the opening round to Alizé Cornet. Another semifinal result in Rome seemed to have cast doubts away but she could not avoid the upset train at the French Open when she departed in the second round after a straight-set defeat to Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Halep leaves the clay with just six wins compared to the twelve she amassed in 2014.
Moving on to grass, the Romanian once again underperformed when she crashed out of the Birmingham quarterfinals, falling to Mladenovic despite having won the first set comfortably. Her dire results continued in Wimbledon where she was sent packing in the opening round by Jana Cepelova.
Back on hardcourts, Halep once again found the mojo that took her to winning the three titles earlier in the year. She began August by reaching the finals of both Toronto and Cincinnati. In the former, she was forced to retire to Bencic in the decider due to a leg injury. In Cincinnati, she was outclassed by Serena Williams in straight sets.
Her good run of form continued at the US Open where she went all the way to the semifinals but was then defeated by eventual champion Flavia Pennetta. Halep nevertheless qualified for her second WTA Finals after the US Open ended.
In her next three Asian tournaments leading up to the WTA Finals, Halep was a quarterfinalist in Guangzhou but then suffered a puzzling loss in the hands of Johanna Konta in the round of 16 in Wuhan, having been in pole position in the deciding set. She then retired in the first round of Beijing with an ankle injury.
Halep’s 2015 WTA Finals journey was no less an unmemorable one. Being the top seed and the finalist from the previous year, the Romanian left the championships in the round robin stage, with just one win coming over Pennetta. Despite a rather mundane finish to the season given how she had begun, she nevertheless boasted a 49-17 record for the season, with more than three-fourths of those victories coming on hard courts.
Outside of tennis
Her run to the Wimbledon final coupled with other good results in Paris and Melbourne earlier saw Bouchard land herself many endorsement deals and modelling advertisements. Bouchard was signed by IMG in December 2014 after her contract with Lagardere expired two months prior. The Canadian was placed under the IMG Models Worldwide roster, hence ensuring that her off-court activities were under good hands.
However, as Bouchard started to appear more frequently in modeling advertisements, it was at this point where her results in 2015 began to slide. Some have regarded this move of becoming increasingly more involved in modelling than focusing and improving on her tennis as Kournikova-esque.
The former Russian tennis player, Anna Kournikova hit a career-high of number eight in singles and number one in doubles, all before the age of 20. She reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon in 1997 at the age of 16 and went on to win two Grand Slam doubles titles at the Australian Open in 1999 and 2001 alongside Martina Hingis.
Things were never quite the same for the Russian at the turn of the millennium. As she got a lot more attention (to the extent where she became most Googled sportswoman on the planet at one instance) and endorsements, her results began to slide. Injuries marred the latter part of her career and she stopped playing in 2003, announcing her retirement four years later, one month shy of turning 26. Perhaps one of the infamous traits of Kournikova’s career was that she had never won a singles title.
Halep on the other hand, has kept a much low-profile life outside the tour, preferring to return home to Constanta, Romania to spend time with family and friends when she is not competing. She does regularly appear in advertisements for Adidas, her clothing sponsor but her off-court activities compared to those of Bouchard are limited.
At the end of the 2014 season, Bouchard decided to part ways with Nick Saviano, her longtime coach of eight years that saw her go from junior Wimbledon champion in 2012 to a Wimbledon finalist and world number five just two years later. The Canadian replaced him with Sam Sumyk who previously worked with Victoria Azarenka.
It was under Sumyk where Bouchard experienced the lowest point of her 2015 season where she managed to win just four out of her fifteen matches between the Australian Open and Rogers Cup. The unfruitful partnership lasted till early August when they split with Bouchard stating that it is not materialising. From late 2015 onwards, she worked with Thomas Hogstedt. Just last month, Bouchard officially announced that she has re-instated Saviano as coach.
For the whole of 2014, Halep was coached by Wim Fissette although she did express her desire to coached by a fellow Romanian. The partnership with Fissette ended after the conclusion of the season and she hired former Romanian tennis player Victor Ionita as her new coach entering 2015 with Hogstedt as acting consultant.
After her string of bad results mid-season, she announced that Ionita will no longer be her coach and Daniel Dobre will be his replacement. It was at the beginning of 2016 where she disclosed that Darren Cahill will be her new coach. Cahill had been acting advisor in the Halep camp for most of the second half of 2015.
2016 season so far
With a nightmare season of 2015 behind, Bouchard freshly began 2016 by reaching the quarterfinals in Shenzhen and finishing runner-up to Cornet in Hobart. She also recorded another final appearance in Kuala Lumpur where she came up short to Svitolina. The Canadian also made the round of 16 of the Premier 5-level Doha and Rome tournaments. At the Grand Slams, she bowed out in the second round of Melbourne and Paris to Agnieszka Radwanska and Timea Bacsinszky respectively.
By her 2015 standards, 2016 has been sub-par for Halep so far. She began the year ranked second but has gone as low as sixth in the first six months. Her results this year up till now were much of a stop-start pattern which features a trophy at the Mutua Madrid Open, a semifinal showing in Sydney, quarterfinal appearances in Indian Wells and Miami and the round of 16 at the French Open. However, interspersed between those results, she did exit the Australian Open along with tournaments of Dubai, Doha, Stuttgart and Rome without a win under her belt.
After a setback last year, Bouchard looked to have finally gained significant momentum in 2016. She has won 19 matches so far this year, overtaking her tally of 12 in 2015. With Saviano in her camp once again, Bouchard will look to rediscover the form that took her to two Grand Slam semifinals, a Grand Slam final and world number five. If she is able to play with that belief and confidence, it will not be a surprise to see the Canadian rise up the rankings once again.
On the other hand, Halep will need to solve her consistency issues that have been quite a major problem for her in 2016. In 2015, she was able to make deep runs especially in the first three months on a weekly basis. She seems to be enjoying her partnership with Cahill which is definitely essential in making a player-coach relationship becoming fruitful. Moreover, if her injuries are fully healed, there will be no doubt that the Romanian will achieve great results once again.