TEBBUTT: BOUCHARD OVER FIRST HURDLE
Eugenie Bouchard allayed the fears of hardcore fans that there might be some after-effects of her 6-2, 6-2 loss to Samantha Stosur last week in New Haven when she outplayed Olga Govortsova 6-2, 6-1 in her opening round at the US Open on Tuesday.
Bouchard was sketchy at the start, showing the rust of only playing a grand total of four matches between the Wimbledon final last month and the beginning of the US Open.
She broke the 26-year-old Belarussian in the sixth game of the opening set to establish a separation that she would never relinquish.
In the second set, Bouchard opened up, swinging more freely to put away her No. 117-ranked opponent in just 59 minutes.
The temperature, in Louis Armstrong Stadium, reached over 30 degrees but active breezes helped make playing conditions manageable.
Govortsova, whose career-high ranking was No. 35 in 2008, didn’t appear to be in the best of shape – sporting serious kinesio tape (see below) on both her left knee and her right shoulder.
Bouchard, bothered by a left hamstring issue, requiring a sizeable wrap for the Stosur match last week, said, “it was something I managed in New Haven. I hurt it during practice a few days before the event, and therefore, really cut down on practice before the event. I didn’t feel so good on the match court. It was a bit unfortunate because I feel like I was playing a bit better. Since then we taped it a little bit. It’s something that healed pretty quickly, so I was happy. The past five days, six days or so have been great. I really put in a lot of hours of practice here in New York City. I feel like it’s something I needed.”
Bouchard, who had beaten Govortsova in their only previous meeting in Washington two years ago, said about her performance, “I’m happy to get a win under my belt. I want to kind of get on a roll and keep the momentum going.”
Bouchard’s serving numbers were sound and she had a tidy winners to unforced errors ratio of 19/11.
She will likely have to raise her game a notch for Thursday’s second-round match against Sorana Cirstea. The runner-up (to Serena Williams) at the 2013 Rogers Cup in Toronto, Cirstea ranked a career-high of No. 21 after that success but has plummeted since – all the way down to her current No. 80.
Since Dubai in February, she has lost nine first rounds and posted a won/loss record of 4-12. Last week in New Haven, she lost in the second round of qualifying.
Still, she looked impressive in outclassing Heather Watson 6-1, 6-1 in 54 minutes in her first-round match on Tuesday. The 24-year-old Romanian’s stats line was 17 winners and 11 unforced errors against the spunky Brit who apparently was not in any way injured or ill during the match.
So Cirstea, who can hit big – and be wild – will be a good test for Bouchard.
“I don’t think I have ever played her,” Bouchard said about Cirstea. “I know I practiced with her a few times and I know she really likes to whack the ball. I’m going to be ready for a tough match. I think we're going to both try to be really aggressive. But I’m feeling better with my movement and better with my game. I’m going to try and impose, as usual.”
Bouchard took a strange fall and found herself flat on the court when she went down on the first point of the sixth game of the opening set.
It was no-harm, no-foul as she explained with a smile, “I have no idea what happened. I just remember hitting a forehand and then lying on the ground. What happened between, I have no idea. I am totally fine. It was just embarrassing.”
With her fine performances so far in 2014 – her first WTA title in Nuremburg right before Roland Garros, semifinals at both the Australian and French Opens and then a final at Wimbledon, Bouchard has become the rising star of women’s tennis.
That caught the attention of the New York Times and she was on the cover of its weekend magazine with a long article under the heading, “Eugenie Bouchard Could Be Tennis’s Next Big Shot.”
There were many interesting insights in the article – particularly about what went on preceding Bouchard’s shocking loss to No. 113-ranked qualifier Shelby Rogers in her first match at Rogers Cup in Montreal three weeks ago.
It was interesting to learn about how Bouchard wanted to delay her return to Montreal by one day because she wasn’t anxious to be there and have all the attention of people watching her practice.
That feeling is similar to one Roger Federer expressed in an interview with Sports Illustrated last week. More and more, including at both Rogers Cup events – and at the US Open – players are expected to have their practice sessions open to the public. Federer said to SI, “today I love practice. My favourite is when nobody’s watching. I feel I can be a clown or how I really am. When there’s a crowd, I feel I’m being watched. People are taking pictures. People are filming. People are analyzing. So I go more into the zone: ‘Okay, let’s make this a good practice, let’s try to work on what we needed to do.’ I still enjoy it, though, because people are happy they can see me and I can do what I love.”
It’s easy to understand how Bouchard, not as accustomed to all the attention the way the 33-year-old Federer is, would struggle with all those potential eyeballs on her.
Susan Dominus, author of the long-form NYT magazine piece, said about what she learned following Bouchard, including at Wimbledon and in Montreal at Rogers Cup: “I think it’s fair to say I have a new appreciation for everything that’s fascinating about tennis — how differently equally brilliant players approach the game, how much it comes down to psychological jujitsu and how lonely and individual a sport it really is.
“Watching a great match can feel like poring over an X-ray of someone’s psyche — there’s a level of brutal exposure that’s so specific to tennis. There’s no helmet, no other teammates to offer some kind of cover in a vulnerable moment. I wondered if that’s why Genie always seems to wear a visor — it probably provides some much-needed privacy on the court, and that’s hard to come by.”
With that in mind, it will be intriguing to see how Bouchard’s psychological jujitsu holds up against Cirstea on Thursday.
NESTOR/ZIMONJIC ON TO ROUND TWO
Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic advanced to the second round of the US Open doubles on Tuesday evening with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins of Britain.
After a few excruciatingly long service games to start the match, the third-seeded Nestor and Zimonjic broke Fleming to take a 2-1 lead and never looked back.
POSPISIL AND SOCK IN DOUBT
Jack Sock, Wimbledon champion doubles partner of Vasek Pospisil, had to retire in his singles match on Tuesday, trailing Pablo Andujar by two sets to one.
“There was a ball late in the second set where I slid out like I usually do, and just felt a little strain on the outside of my right calf,” Sock explained. “It hindered my play and I wasn’t able to go 100 per cent, so I decided to stop.
“Hopefully, it’s not too serious and it’s something I can just get some treatment on over the next few days and see how it feels for doubles.”
Seeded eighth, Pospisil and Sock are slated to play Jarkko Nieminen and Henri Kontinen of Finland.
That first-round match is not on the schedule of play for Wednesday.
- There was an amusing incident just before the Roger Federer – Marinko Matosevic match on Tuesday evening. I was talking to Canadian doubles specialist Adil Shamasdin when he said something about who just went by – it was all-time basketball great Michael Jordan. He was with Tony Godsick, Federer’s manager. As Jordan started up the stairs to the players lounge area, Victoria Azarenka came scurrying out hoping to catch up to Jordan. But she was too late, the former Chicago Bulls No. 23 had gone past. “I’m such a loser,” Azarenka joked about missing her chance to meet him.
- Here are a couple of fun shots of not-so-young fans in Louis Armstrong Stadium during Eugenie Bouchard’s match on Tuesday. Both couples were at the very top of the stands.
That seemed like a bit of a strange place to be when there were lots of empty seats below them.