Two players who have had their fair share of troubles in the last year, Jelena Jankovic and Eugenie Bouchard, will play each other in a star-studded first round match in Rome on Tuesday.
Jankovic’s year grinded to a halt in March when a shoulder/neck injury forced her out of Miami and Charleston. Furthermore, she also had a worrying time when doctors found an enlarged thyroid cyst, which thankfully turned out to be benign (via article by The Tennis Island). Jankovic returned in Madrid where she didn’t quite look up to speed, especially on serve. Still, it is nice to see JJ back for what has traditionally been one of her best stretches on the WTA calendar.
Compared to what happened in 2015, Bouchard has had a joyous year! The Canadian player won 15 matches through her first six tournaments, three more than the 12 she managed throughout the entire 2015 season. After the bright start, Bouchard’s results have simmered of late with a re-occurrence of the abdominal injury, which has affected her in the past, forcing her to retire during her second round match in Charleston. Bouchard returned in Madrid, going the distance against Irina-Camelia Begu in the first round; however her lack of match play was evident as she played a slack game serving at *4-5 in the third set.
Head-to-head record: Bouchard leads Jankovic, 2-1 in their head-to-head. Jankovic won their first encounter handily, 6-2 6-1 in Charleston in 2013. Bouchard has won their two previous encounters in Tokyo (7-5 6-2, 2013) and Charleston again (6-3 4-6 6-3, 2014).
Interesting stat: Rome has been one of Jankovic’s best tournaments on tour; in 13 previous tournaments, Jankovic has been crowned champion twice (back-to-back in 2007 and 2008), as well as reaching the final in 2010, semi-finals in 2014 and quarter-finals in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Final thoughts: Out of all the first round matches, this is one I’m most intrigued to see who prevails. I’d expect a fully fit and healthy Jankovic to win this one on clay but I still think the Serb needs time, particularly on her serve, which she has revealed is not up to full intensity yet. Bouchard herself is still working her way back from the abdominal injury which is a concern as it has been rather persistent. Some of Bouchard’s best results have come on clay so I don’t think the surface will be such a negative for her in this match-up. A tough one, but I’m going for Bouchard because I think she will be the more physically prepared for this clash.