Timea Bacsinszky and Eugenie Bouchard will play each other for the first time on the WTA tour when they meet in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Monday.
Bacsinszky played her best match of 2016 so far, comfortably defeating Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round, 6-2 6-1. The key factor in this match was Bacsinszky’s backhand, which was on song throughout the 63-minute contest. Early on, Bacsinszky was hitting some wonderful angled backhands, forcing Pironkova out wide and then successfully playing into the open space. As the match wore on, confidence grew and the Swiss player managed to rip a handful of backhands down-the-line.
The forehand, Bacsinszky’s weaker side, also held up. The slice shot on the forehand side was very effective against Pironkova, in particular producing one audacious winner. The only negative point of the match for Bacsinszky was that she was broken to love serving for it… however she broke for the win in the very next game.
Bacsinszky’s start to the year was disrupted by the knee ligament injury she picked up in Luxembourg at the end of 2015. She admitted to not being 100% but soldiered on, winning just one out of six matches through Australia and Fed Cup action. The world number 21 looked to be back on the right path in Doha, picking up two invaluable wins over Bethanie Mattek-Sands (6-7 6-1 6-3) and Yulia Putintseva (6-2 7-6). The first win was a huge one; Bacsinszky had all manner of opportunities to close out the first set (which she failed to do) and then was locked in a tight third set battle before getting the win.
Bouchard went into the hotly anticipated second round match against Sloane Stephens as the underdog, but came away as the victor. Bouchard upset the number 21 seed in two tight sets, 7-5 7-5. There really wasn’t much to call between the pair. It was a decent quality match with both players looking to get the first strike in and come forward. While Bouchard’s first serve percentage was much lower than Stephens in the first set, 44% to 72%, she was the more aggressive player on return. This was highlighted on the final point of the first set as Bouchard battered a return winner away.
Stephens recovered from a break down at the start of the second set to serve for it at *5-4 to take the match into what seemed like an inevitable third set. However, the match flipped as the American player failed to convert five set points; the fifth will be one to forget for Stephens as Bouchard’s short return sat up waiting to be pummelled away for the winner… unfortunately, and not for the first time, Stephens went long. She never recovered after that miss.
Interesting stat: Bouchard has won 15 matches this year which puts her, at the time of writing, number one on the WTA tour in 2016 for match wins. The win over Stephens was her best of the year in terms of ranking.
Final thoughts: I’m really looking forward to this match… Bacsinszky is playing with confidence again and is moving much better having looked a little sluggish in Australia. She was heavily strapped up in her third round loss to Carla Suárez Navarro in Doha but didn’t look restricted against Pironkova. Bouchard seems to be thriving in her “fighter” role at the moment to try and get back to where she was two years ago. The mental toughness, one of the greatest assets of her game, is slowly but surely, coming back. It’s weird to say this because Bacsinszky is the seed but Bouchard will be the favourite to prevail. Pre-tournament, I would have given Bacsinszky little chance against Stephens/Bouchard in the third round but after watching her match with Pironkova, I think she stands a good shot in this one.