May 21, 2024

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IW ’15: Michelle Larcher de Brito – still loud as … (video)

Remember when Michelle Larcher de Brito was the next big teenage thing?

We think about her today, as CiCi Bellis gets ready to take on Serena Williams in Miami.

Here was de Brito at Indian Wells, where she lost in the final round of qualifying to Evgeniya Rodina of Russia (down 0-5 in the third set, de Brito got it to 4-5 before finally losing. Note the infuriated ball bounce at the end, and the fly-by handshake that hasn’t changed much over the years.

And here’s de Brito in a match many Canucks will remember, in 2008 against Svetlana Kuznetsova at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, at age 15. She lost it 6-4 in the third set.

Bellis is listed at 5-6 and 110 pounds; de Brito, at 5-5 and 125 pounds. But back at that age, they were probably comparable, weight-wise. De Brito was a tiny little thing.

De Brito is still only 22; she’s a year younger than Genie Bouchard, and several years younger than Simona Halep. But boy, it sure doesn’t feel that way, does it?

What happened? Well, watching de Brito at Indian Wells, it seems that in those six years, absolutely nothing has changed. And that’s not a good thing.

She still has the same non-existent, hitch-filled serve she always had. She still hits the ball pretty much the same way, strictly from the baseline. She has never really calmed down or stopped being so hard on herself.

In other words, she just hasn’t gotten better; in the interim, everyone has gotten better. And a whole new generation of players has come along. In fact, her backhand looks worse now then it did then; she’s not even finishing her debrito2010_newswing if you compare the above two videos. And she never got any bigger or taller, really.

And, it goes without saying, she’s still WAY loud. There was a brief period a few years ago when she tried to tone it down; but she just wasn’t the same player.

So de Brito slogs along, playing qualifying at Slams and WTA events, playing $50K and $25K ITF tournaments. And she stands at No. 124 in the rankings. Even at the ITF level, she has only won three titles. She had one good effort a year ago at Wimbledon, qualifying and getting to the third round before being schooled by No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.

As it happens, Miami was her first WTA Tour event, all the way back in 2007 when she had just turned 14. In the first round, she upset then-No. 43 Meghann Shaugnessy before giving Daniela Hantuchova a good match for a set. The next year, at 15, she beat Ekaterina Makarova (then No. 75), then upset No. 17 seed Radwanska before losing in the third round. In other words, she did more, far younger, than Bellis has done.

But so far, Larcher de Brito’s career-best ranking is No. 76, back in 2009 when she was, yup, 16.

We forget, but de Brito got huge pub at the time – and for more than just her screeching. She won the Eddie Herr under-16s when she was just 12.  She won the Orange Bowl – 18s, the top category – when she was just 14 years old. At 14, she lost in the first round of the junior Wimbledon and junior U.S. Open tournaments. But she lost to Halep in New York, and to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at Wimbledon – both of whom were a fair bit older, and both of whom have gone on, as we see, to very good careers.

She made her top-100 debut in the WTA rankings at 16. Life has changed on tour in the last 5-6 years, but Bellis, who turns 16 in 10 days, is currently ranked a career-best No. 211.

All of which to say, let’s take it easy on CiCi Bellis. Michelle Larcher de Brito has been where she’s been – and a lot more. And it’s the furthest thing from a slam-dunk you can think of.

 

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