Canada’s darling Eugenie Bouchard admits to eating disorder and the twitching pangs of pressure
TERRANCE GAVAN – EDITOR
Those of us who have never had to rise to an occasion, those who never played elite sports and those who are incapable of hitting our empathic stride might certainly pooh-pooh the very real physical manifestations that surface when confronted with the bewitching bogeyman that bedevils a great number – if not all – of professional athletes. At the risk of sounding obsequious I will urge all of you to consider what it’s like to have to depend solely upon one’s physical gifts to put the cheese casserole on your table. It can get a little scary.
Pressure begets fear.
And fear is what turns even the fleetest of feet to clay.
Speaking of clay, we roll on over to Roland Garros, home of the French Open Tennis Championships, to listen to Eugenie Bouchard, who made some pretty frank admissions while discussing her first round victory over Germany’s Laura Siegemund 6-2, 6-2. It was a good solid match for Bouchard, but the presser after the match certainly laid the groundwork for more speculation regarding her recent (all of 2015) on court struggles.
Pressure is not something that we can quantify… it is measured in hiccups and fits, and jerks and starts. It manifests in the strangest ways, and once visited, it can rear up like a startled thoroughbred.
In baseball we see portraits of players who just bingo… lose their ability to throw a ball to first base. Yes Steve Sax, who owns two World Series rings, played for the LA Dodgers and while not a gold glover, he was early in his career at least able to turn double plays with the alacrity of a, well, world champion second baseman. Then in 1983 something happened.
He found it unerringly difficult to make the throw to first base. Any throw. Pressure. So much pressure that in 1983 Steve Sax committed 33 errors. It was so bad that today the inherited vice is now called ‘Steve Sax Syndrome’ and yes, that’s a real thing. It does not only affect second baggers. We have a pitcher with SSS (Steve Sax Syndrome) playing in the majors today who is able still to throw darts to the plate but who is unable to make a pickoff or fielding play to first base. Jon Lester is making $155 million for the Chicago Cubs and he has completely lost the ability to throw the ball to first.
Jordan Spieth had a meltdown on the 12th hole at Augusta this year and it most certainly cost him the Masters Golf Tournament. In the aftermath, Spieth has shown a remarkable drop in confidence and general shotmaking.
I was able to watch Bouchard today, both on the court and in her press conference. She handled herself admirably on both the pitch and the podium and I for one, an admittedly jaded member of the fourth estate, at times, am all for Bouchard’s forthcoming and fulminating flummox as it were.
I say, good on ya’ Genie. I remember a pretty nice run at the US Open last year, cut short by a stumble and fall in a darkened trainer’s room, a fall which turned out quite disastrous in the scheme of things.
Diagnosed with a concussion, she had to pull out from the Open and from there had to curtail her tennis upon entering concussion protocol mode.
Genie said that her former mentor/coach Jimmy Connors rocked her with some inspiring words after that low point.
I remember a nearly 40 year old Connors staring up at the chair umpire some time back, in one of his last appearances at any grand slam back in 1991, playing the sweet-cheeked but forgettable Aaron Krickstein, after David Littlefield called an overhead hit by Jimbo out. The call was a correction and it was late.
Connors approached the chair. “You’re a bum,” he said. “I’m out here playing my butt off at 39 years old and you’re doing that? Very clear my butt!”
Connors is not the only one, but he is one of the few I remember who played better in pressure.
We don’t know what Jimbo said to Genie Bouchard last autumn post-fall, but we hope it will enable her to move on.
He may have reminded Canada’s jewel that pressure also makes diamonds.