A blockbuster second round clash is all set at the Olympics on Monday as the number two seed, Angelique Kerber will take on Eugenie Bouchard in Rio.
In one of the most anticipated first round matches, Bouchard produced a smart performance as she overcame Sloane Stephens in relatively routine fashion, 6-3 6-3. Bouchard was forced to save three break points through her first two service games, but didn’t face another one during the 74 minute contest as she held all nine of her service games. It was Bouchard’s second win over Stephens this year having defeated the American player in Indian Wells earlier this year, 7-5 7-5.
Kerber saved a set point in the second set of her first round match against Mariana Duque Mariño, doing well in the end to prevail in straight sets, 6-3 7-5. Duque-Mariño showed some super touches at the net and made life awkward for Kerber with her competent slice. After the pair split two breaks in the first set, Kerber secured the vital break at 4-3 but needed NINE break points!
Kerber seemed to be rolling, up 6-3 2-0* Adv-40* but would go onto lose five straight games. Duque-Mariño served for the second set at *5-3 and even had a set point; unfortunately she did get tight, eventually double faulting away the game. Duque-Mariño’s game started to crumble with her slices frequently missing the mark. Kerber pounced and served out the match with a roar.
There was some good stuff in there from Kerber including one magnificent backhand pass in the first set. It’s a joy to see her really go after her shots but with that focused aggression does come patchy spells of play; combined with a less-than-ideal body language at times, Kerber did lose her way in the second set for a time before refocusing to win the last five games of the match.
Head-to-head record: Bouchard leads Kerber in their head-to-head, 3-1 and has won their last three matches. Bouchard won their most recent encounter in Rome, a see-saw three setter that peaked in an entertaining third set with Bouchard prevailing, 6-1 5-7 7-5. Kerber won their only ever match on hard court at the US Open back in 2013, 6-4 2-6 6-3.
Final thoughts: Bouchard has dominated this match-up in recent times although they haven’t played on hard since their first encounter back in 2013. Bouchard’s bold play and willingness to go for her shots helped her over the line in a narrow win in Rome. Kerber’s form has improved dramatically since the clay where she has rarely played her best tennis.
Bouchard has shown some encouraging signs of late, particularly in Montreal, but there have been a couple of shockers thrown in too. The win over Stephens was supremely solid and sets her up well for this clash against the world number two. Kerber will need to step it up and play aggressive tennis to get the better of Bouchard and there were signs against Duque-Mariño that she is confident enough right now to take some risks.
I’m leaning slightly towards Bouchard but this feels like a 50-50 match… whoever prevails, i’d fancy the winner to go deep in the draw.