After suffering a crushing 6-1 6-0 loss to Roberta Vinci in New Haven, her 15th loss in the last 18 matches, it seemed things couldn’t get much more miserable for Eugenie Bouchard. However, full credit to the Canadian player who has scrapped her way into the third round of the US Open with victories over Alison Riske (6-4 6-3) and Polona Hercog (6-3 6-7(2) 6-3). Bouchard won her fifth match in six encounters against Riske, coming from a break down in both sets to win in straight sets. Bouchard secured back-to-back wins on the tour for the first time since Indian Wells in beating Hercog in what was a pretty painful watch.
Hercog’s tactics never cease to amaze. Perched firmly behind the baseline, Hercog was on the defence for much of the match with Bouchard rightfully being aggressive. While she looked awkward at the net, Bouchard was rewarded for her positivity. Bouchard was *1-3 down in both sets but came back to lead 6-3 *5-4 with an opportunity to serve for the match. It was here where Bouchard started to crumble, playing a poor service game when serving for it. Hercog finally stepped it up and moved closer to the baseline and, lo and behold, on occasion inside it! Hercog looked great when on the attack, but it was a shame she didn’t play like this more often during the match. She backed off again to allow Bouchard into the tiebreak where the former Wimbledon finalist proceeded to make a ton of errors to concede the set.
Credit to Bouchard who refocused to win the third set. It was only her SECOND three set win of the year, the last one coming back in Melbourne. Bouchard showed her fragility, but also some fighting spirit.
In the third round Bouchard gets a shot at Dominika Cibulkova. The Slovak player looked in big trouble against Jessica Pegula but fought characteristically hard, coming back from a set and a break down to win, 5-7 7-5 6-3. A hand to Pegula who played a really great match. There were just a few points in it and Cibulkova’s mental toughness and experience at the Slams helped her through. Pegula had two break points at 5-5 in the second set which would have seen her serve for the match. However, Cibulkova saved both break points, one with a gorgeous sliced passing shot that floated down-the line. Cibulkova won eight straight points to wrap up the second set.
Cibulkova and Bouchard will meet for the first time on the WTA tour. Bouchard should have gained a much-needed boost from her two wins this week. Cibulkova, still not quite at her pre-achilles surgery level, has been playing well. It could have been a case of feeling the pressure as she had thrived in the underdog role, beating Ana Ivanovic in the first round, but faced a different proposition altogether as the heavy favourite again Pegula with a dream draw onwards. Cibulkova spoke about feeling the pressure of improving her ranking in this article in the WTA Insider.
If Cibulkova can keep going with the ‘one match at a time’ philosophy and stay focussed, i’d expect her quality to be too much for Bouchard to handle.
Prediction: Cibulkova d. Bouchard in 2 sets