Eugenie Bouchard's life on court has been rough these past few weeks, which may be good prep work for her pending time in court. Her lawsuit against the USTA remains unresolved, with both sides digging in their heels and a fall trial looking unavoidable.
"We've had two attempts at mediation, and both have failed," Benedict Morelli, Bouchard's lawyer, told ESPN.com. "The USTA has yet to accept responsibility and concede liability for what happened. I'm going into a new mode -- 'super hardball.'"
Bouchard's suit resulted from a fall and the subsequent concussion she suffered following a late-night mixed doubles match at the US Open in early September of 2015. Due to the late hour, the Canadian star, also into the fourth round in singles as the No. 25 seed, found the women's locker room dark and unattended. She went in hoping to use the ice bath, but, according to the lawsuit, slipped on a substance on the floor and banged her head.
Bouchard pulled out of the tournament two days later, showing symptoms of a concussion. She started just one more singles match in 2015, quitting halfway through the second set of that one, complaining of dizziness.
Part of Morelli's strategy is a recent decision to seek a motion to sanction the USTA for "spoliation" of evidence. If the court finds in favor of Morelli, it could fine the USTA and issue a "sanction of adverse inference," instructing jurors to give any benefit of doubt to the plaintiff, Bouchard, in areas where the missing evidence might have come into play.
Shortly after he was retained by Bouchard in mid-September of 2015, Morelli sent the USTA a pro forma letter requesting officials to retain all evidence pertaining to the accident. He claims the USTA, despite that, destroyed significant security camera footage.
The USTA originally sent Morelli a three-hour-long CD created from material caught on camera during the critical time frame outside the women's locker room (there are no security cameras inside). Morelli said that it became clear during the deposition of WTA trainer Eva Schumann in November that "extremely relevant" additional security footage may have existed. When he requested it, the USTA said it was no longer available because the organization saves footage for only 160 days.
Morelli cried foul: "They're saying we asked too late. We're saying we asked for it as soon as we realized it existed."
In a pre-motion letter sent last week to Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Morelli, citing legal precedent, argued that once litigation is imminent, a party must suspend its usual document retention/destruction policy and adopt a "litigation hold."
The USTA issued this statement in response to Morelli's letter to the judge:
"The USTA is confident that it preserved all documents, footage and other materials requested by Mr. Morelli at the time he advised us of Ms. Bouchard's claim. Other than that, the USTA followed its standard retention policies, which make it impossible to accommodate an additional request that came more than 14 months after the original notice."
Donnelly will meet with Morelli and the USTA and rule on the motion in about a week. None of which helps Bouchard's immediate dilemma, which is a yet another baffling slump.
Bouchard had a sensational breakthrough year in 2014 at age 20, peaking at No. 5 in the WTA rankings, and went on to become one of the most marketable female athletes in the world. She also has become a social media juggernaut, with more than 2.5 million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram. But her tennis has suffered.
She has juggled coaches and shown flashes of her best tennis in recent years, but she has repeatedly gravitated back to her most anxious and error-prone worst.
Now 23 and ranked No. 56, Bouchard showed promise early in 2017 after losing her first WTA match of the year in Brisbane. She made the semifinals of Sydney, losing to eventual champion Johanna Konta, and then lost a tough third-round battle with on-fire Coco Vandeweghe at the Australian Open. But she hasn't won a match in a WTA event since.
In desperate need of matches before the big European clay-court tournaments, Bouchard decided to take a wild card into this week's $80,000 minor league ITF event in Indian Harbor Beach, Florida. It has been four years since she has taken part in so minor an event.
Unless Bouchard finds her game soon, getting off the court and into one might seem a relief, no matter how contentious the proceedings.