SINGAPORE - At the start of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global, Eugenie Bouchard said that she often watches Serena Williams and admires how she maintains her calm and poise during tough moments.
This year’s event provided brand-new learning opportunities for both Bouchard, the youngest player at the event and Williams, the oldest.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Bouchard said after she closed out her Red Group round robin play on Thursday with a 6-1, 6-1, loss to Williams. “I’ve learned about myself, about being at the top level of a professional sport, playing big matches, playing against big players, having to deal with pressure after doing well and things like that.”
Bouchard’s world ranking escalated to No.5 during the course of the WTA Finals. She’s the highest-ranked Canadian-born player ever. However, a leg injury forced her out of the Linz tournament and she was unable to prepare at a high level in advance of the season finale. The lack of preparation clearly affected her game as well as her spirit as she bowed out of the tournament with an 0-3 record after having won just 11 games.
“I think losing three matches in one week is tough,” Bouchard said.
But, Bouchard got to measure herself consistently against more experienced players in her talent tier.
“I feel like I have so much more to improve. Playing against the best in the world today, I got my butt kicked, but I had fun. It actually motivates me to get better,” Bouchard said. “I see how much better I can get in so many areas of my game. To aspire to be like that one - although no one can be like that - but to be close to that is truly motivating; that’s what I learned today.”
Her opponent on the other side of the net wasn’t done learning lessons either.
For Williams, the lesson involved getting her mind back in order after being dominated by Simona Halep.
Her coach, Patrick Mortagolu, literally dragged Williams out of the doldrums with a positive talk about her game and abilities. She dusted herself off and delivered a near-flawless performance against Bouchard. For Williams, learning to recover immediately after a loss was something completely new.
“Always got to keep fighting and keep learning new things even though I’ve been on the tour for a long time,” Williams said.
Both players have vowed to take steps in the off-season to have a successful 2015. We have no doubt the lessons learned in Singapore will be applied in January and beyond.