Wednesday’s blockbuster match will see Agnieszka Radwanska face her first significant test of the Australian Open when she plays Eugenie Bouchard in the first night match on Rod Laver Arena. After a battering of a 2015 season, Bouchard finished the year barely inside the world’s top 50 at number 48 in the world. It had all started quite promisingly; a victory over Serena Williams in the Hopman Cup was followed by a decent enough run to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. From then on, it was pretty much downhill with a run of six straight losses between Indian Wells and Rome, and first round defeats at the French Open and Wimbledon. Some of these losses were crushing, particularly the ones against Suárez Navarro in Rome and Shvedova in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
When it looked things couldn’t get any worse, Bouchard succumbed to a 6-1 6-0 loss to Roberta Vinci in New Haven. The one ray of sunshine was the US Open where she put in a gutsy display to beat Dominika Cibulkova to reach the second week. However, her week was cut short due to concussion after a fall in the locker room, which effectively ended her season. A new year comes a new start and with the pressure subsiding, Bouchard has already begun the 2016 season in encouraging form. A quarter-final appearance in Shenzhen was swiftly followed by a run to the finals in Hobart where she played some aggressive and consistent tennis, beating Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Camila Giorgi and Dominika Cibulkova. While she didn’t get up for the final, Bouchard continued to display her improved form in the first round of the Australian Open, beating Aleksandra Krunic, 6-3 6-4, in 66 minutes.
Radwanska remains unbeaten in 2016 after winning her first title of the year in Shenzhen followed by a first round win in Melbourne against Christina McHale, 6-3 6-2. It was a solid enough performance as first rounds go, producing more winners than errors. McHale offered up some resistance, breaking Radwanska’s serve on four separate occasions. McHale also had a great opening at 3-3 30-0* on Radwanska’s serve and was in control of the point with the number four seed on the back foot, but McHale missed one of many sitters.
Head-to-head record: In their only previous match, Radwanska defeated Bouchard in Madrid in 2014, 7-6(3) 6-2.
Interesting stat: This time last year, Radwanska and Bouchard were side-by-side in the rankings with Radwanska at 6 and Bouchard at 7. While Bouchard went on to have a terrible 2015 season, she’s started 2016 with a flourish and she was the only player to reach at least the quarter-finals in the first two weeks of the season.
Analysis: This will be a significant test of Radwanska’s credentials. Bouchard’s status has completely turned on its head and she obviously goes into this match as the underdog. I’d say she has nothing to lose but Bouchard is defending quarter-final points! After this tournament though, Bouchard will have ground to make up on pretty much every tournament up to the US Open. On this occasion, I think Radwanska will be too solid.
Prediction: Radwanska d. Bouchard in 2 sets