Eugenie Bouchard’s year of woes continues as her poor run of form ahead of the third major of the year ends in another first round tournament defeat–her third in a row–while Victoria Azarenka was forced to pull out with a foot injury.
Bouchard’s most recent loss comes at the hands of Kristina Mladenovic of France in three sets, 6-3 4-6 6-0. A lot has been made of Bouchard’s troubling 2015 season, with some speculating she cannot handle the pressure of what she achieved last year–making the Wimbledon final, Roland Garros Semi-final and ending the year ranked World #5. To add to the pressure of her dwindling season her opponent was on fire, producing her best tennis from the off.
Mladenovic came out of the blocks firing, not allowing the #5th seed to play her usual style of hard-hitting tennis at all, breaking her Canadian opponent twice in the first set. Mladenovic was able to win 79 percent of her first serves and 64 percent of second serves too, a stark contrast to Bouchard who only managed to win 56 percent of service points. With Mladen0vic breaking her opponent early on and again towards the end of the set she managed to take it comfortably 6-3.
Bouchard managed to up her level slightly in the second set, staying with her hard-hitting opponent for most of the early proceedings. Bouchard got her chance at 3 all, taking advantage of a rare dip in form from the Frenchwoman, breaking for a 4-3 lead. Bouchard held her nerve and was able to serve out the set to love, taking it 6-4.
Any progress Bouchard had made in the second set was short lived, before she could even blink Mladenovic found herself up a double break and leading 4-0. Despite fighting to carve out three break point chances of the Mladenovic serve she couldn’t quite drag herself over the line and get one of the breaks back. Once the wheels had all but surely come spiraling off for Bouchard there was nothing more she could do, having missed her chances in the previous game the world #11 was broken to love for a third time, ending the match with a limp double fault.
Throughout the match Bouchard’s poor form was telling; the Canadian managed only one ace which was stamped out by her 6 double faults. Her poor serving saw her average a dismal 48 percent of second serve points and save only 1 of the 6 break points she faced throughout. As well as serving badly, Bouchard wasn’t able to capitalize on her opponents dip in form for large periods of the match, only managing to break Mladenovic once out of the 10 break points she created for herself.
Eugenie’s previous best performance this year came at the Australian Open where she reached the quarterfinal stages; since then the she has had a string of first round exits and has struggled to get beyond the Round of 16.
Joining the list of seeded casualties to exit this years Aegon Classic early was #12th seed Azarenka who was forced to pull out of her second round match with Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan after suffering a left foot injury.
Since suffering a lower back injury in late 2013 Azarenka has yet to get back to the form which saw her reach world #1 and Grand-Slam champion status. Azarenka is slowly making her way back up the rankings, with good showings in Doha, where she made the final, and Rome where she lost in the quarterfinals; the Belorussian has been threatening to show her best in 2015.
Speaking about her withdrawal Azarenka made the decision to put aside the ranking and make the smart choice,
“It’s very disappointing for me to make this decision but I tried to practice and it just doesn’t feel 100 percent. i don’t think it’s the best time for me to take a risk right now, especially right before Wimbledon and I need to make sure I have the best preparation possible. I definitely enjoyed my time here in Birmingham and hopefully I can come back next year and play fully fit”.