Frustrated Eugenie Bouchard falters in third round at Rogers Cup
Canadian tennis fans may have to accept the fact that Eugenie Bouchard is a very good tennis player, but she may never be a great one.
Bouchard is ranked No. 42 in the world and will move up a few spots when the new WTA Tour rankings are released on Monday, but her performance in Uniprix Stadium Thursday night left the faithful asking: What if?
Bouchard had a clear path to the quarterfinals of the US$2.4-million Rogers Cup women’s tennis championships when she faced Slovak Kristina Kucova, a 26-year-old qualifier who has spent most of her career playing in tennis’ minor leagues.
But Kucova recovered from a shaky start and rallied to beat Bouchard 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Through the first two rounds of this tournament, Bouchard appeared to have regained the form that carried her to a top-five ranking in 2014. She battled to beat Lucie Safarova in the first round and then cruised past 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova with the loss of only two games.
But, in what has become a familiar pattern, Bouchard’s game stalled. It would be easy to say the pressure of playing in front of a rabid hometown crowd got to her, but the reality is that, on this night, Kucova fought harder and played better.
What looked like an easy win when Bouchard raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set turned into a street fight and Kucova proved tougher down the stretch.
When Kucova stepped up her game in the third set, Bouchard had no answer. A confab with coach Nick Saviano was no help and Bouchard received a warning from the chair umpire after she smashed her racquet in frustration after Kucova broke for a 4-2 lead. Serving for the match at 5-3, Kucova won her serve at love.
It would be a mistake to write off Bouchard at the tender age of 22. She has won close to $500,000 in official earnings this year but she hasn’t reached the quarterfinals of a tournament since February and her Grand Slam results indicate her ranking is about where it should be.
She’s a very good player, but not a great one.
Next up for Kucova is 15th-seeded Johanna Konta, who ended the hopes of Varvara Lepchenko with a 6-3, 6-3 win. Lepchenko, an Uzbeki-born U.S. citizen, lost in the qualifying event on the weekend, but was awarded a lucky loser spot in the main draw when third-seeded Garbine Muguruza of Spain withdrew with a stomach ailment.
Daria Kasatkina became the only other unseeded player to reach the quarterfinals when she upset seventh-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy, 7-5, 6-3.
Kasatkina says clay is her favourite surface, but she has shown consistency on a variety of surfaces while reaching the quarterfinals of the last four Grand Slam event.
“Looks like I have to change my mind,” Kasatkina said. “Last year I played seven months on clay and had really good results. But I started to play more on hard courts and much less tournaments on clay so I’ve adapted to hard courts. But still I like to play on clay because I like the game. It’s little bit slower and you can play more a tactical game.”
Vinci said the age difference — she’s 33 — was a factor in the match, but she described Kasatkina as an intelligent player. The Russian’s clay-court background was evident as she gave Vinci trouble with high topspin shots to the Italian’s backhand and an effective kick serve.
Kasatkina’s ranking on the WTA Tour has climbed from No. 370 to No. 33 over the past 18 months, but she said she doesn’t set ranking goals.
“Usually when I have some goals, I’m always dropping,” said Kasatkina. “It was like this in juniors, when I was small. I’m just improving my game. If I will play good, the ranking will come.”
Kasatkina will fulfill a dream next month when she represents Russia at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While many Russian athletes have been barred because of a state-supported drug scandal, the tennis players have been cleared because they are subjected to testing on the WTA and ATP Tours.
Kasatkina said she hasn’t been following news of the scandal because she has been focusing on tennis.
“I just know the tennis team is going to the Olympics, so we are good so I don’t want to put pressure on me because we have a lot of problems with doping or something. … It’s a shame that other athletes, for example, don’t have this opportunity. But I’m trying to focus on me and tennis.”
Her immediate focus is on Friday’s match against second-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany, who rallied to beat 17th-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4.
The other match in the bottom half of the draw pits fifth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over 14th-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, against ninth-seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. She beat 12th-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (2), 6-3.
Fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland lost to 16th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-1 and that set up a quarter-final meeting against 10th-seeded Madison Keys, a 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-3 over sixth-seeded Venus Williams in an all-American battle.
“I knew that it’s going to be tough because I don’t get rhythm from her,” said Halep. “You never know what to expect for the next point so there’s a bit of tension. But I knew these things. I just had to stay patient for every ball and to keep fighting because I knew that if I stay there for every ball, she will miss more than me.”
Halep also admitted being distracted by a sea of spectators waving fans in an attempt to cool off on the muggy 28-degree afternoon.
“In the beginning it wasbothering me, but just when I had to return,” said Halep. “I was seeing everything down there and it was not easy. But then you forget, you just go into the game.”
Halep said she didn’t consider having the chair umpire ask the fans to be still.
“No, poor guys just have to have some air, it’s okay,” she said.