L’Affaire de Bouchard was probably something that a tennis star wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard has suffered a classic plight—the sophomore slump—this season. And she has slumped hard. But not quite as hard as Victoria Azarenka, on the rebound herself after a smattering of injuries, might have it.
Azarenka retired from her second-round match in Wuhan against Johanna Konta, who has now exploded onto the WTA tour. (The British upstart went on to beat top seed Simona Halep today.) The two-time Australian Open champion notably bristled at a reporter’s post-match question that sought to compare her struggles to those of Bouchard.
“Well, I didn’t lose 11 matches in a row,” Azarenka’s answer began, “so it’s a little bit different of a learning experience she has with herself. I’m not in the position to comment on what she’s done.
Vika’s best shot of the day I think : pic.twitter.com/Y9Aboyybmv
— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) September 29, 2015
Fair enough, frankly. But you can bet that Azarenka’s remarks will be hoisted up as the latest shining example of cattiness among players, something of a mean-spirited slight dealt verbally to a competitor. But non-verbal communication—encompassing tone, facial expressions, gestures, inflection and more—is everything. And we don’t get that in her answer as shown in a transcript.
On another level, Azarenka is wrong about Bouchard’s 11-match losing streak. The figure is actually six. Even so, five or six straight first-round losses make for a surefire devolution in tennis, especially for one who made it to the semifinal round or better at three of four major tournaments the previous year.
Long story long, have a heart about Bouchard—but don’t blast Azarenka for speaking (next to) the truth. Both of them are relatively limping into what this season’s end holds for them.
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