Last year around this fortnight, Genie Bouchard was defeating Simona Halep in the Wimbledon semifinals to reach her first grand Slam final.
Twelve months later, Halep and Bouchard are both losing first round at the All England Club, sending their rankings spiraling.
The No. 3-seeded Halep on Tuesday, after winning the first set, lost to Slovak Jana Cepelova 5-7, 6-4, 6-3, while the No. 12-seeded Bouchard lost the 11th of her last 13 matches, falling to China’s unheralded Duan Yingying 7-6(3), 6-4.
“It’s a little bit of a low point for me,” the Canadian Bouchard said. “Maybe I should [change coaches]. But I believe in him and he believes in me. There definitely has to be some improvement, because I expect to do better than this.”
Halep, perhaps still mentally gassed from the long claycourt season and as of recently without a coach, lost to a player ranked more than 100 places lower than her in Cepelova.
“I think emotion. I wasn’t there,” Halep said. “I couldn’t handle it very well. She came back in a good way with her game. She was pushing me a lot. She was aggressive. But I can say that I let her come in and play aggressive…Inside and emotionally I have to work more to take the stress out. I want to go on court and say, ‘I don’t care what I’m doing, just to go play tennis.’ It will come soon. I believe and I have this confidence.”
Cepelova hasn’t won back-to-back WTA matches in nine months, but upset world No. 1 Serena Williams in 2014 at Charleston.
Among other Top 10-seeded players in action, No. 2 Petra Kvitova was in devastating form with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Dutch veteran Kiki Bertens, as was No. 10 Angie Kerber, who double-bageled German Carina Witthoeft.
“Yes, I’ll be quite happy if every time I’m nervous I play like this,” said Kvitova, who lost only one point on her serve during the match. “I was sick a few days ago and still played very well. Focusing on myself is the most important thing. There are so many great opponents here…Before the match you never know how it’s going to be.”
Also winning were No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki with a second-set bagel against China’s Zheng Saisai 7-5, 6-0, and No. 8 Ekaterina Makarova topped American qualifier Sachia Vickery 6-2, 6-4.
Woz after a nervy start found herself down a double break in the first set before storming back to take the first and bake a bagel in the second.
“I started off a little bit nervous, I got broken,” she said. “Then it was hard to break back. You couldn’t really see well from one side. But I managed to just keep my head cool and started to play a little bit better and more consistently. That’s really it.”
Other seeded winners on Tuesday were No. 13 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 15 Timea Bacsinszky, No. 17 Elina Svitolina who came from a set down to defeat Misaki Doi, No. 18 Sabine Lisicki, No. 20 Garbine Muguruza Blanco, No. 25 Alize Cornet, No. 26 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 28 Jelena Jankovic who outlasted Elena Vesnina 10-8 in the third, and No. 31 Camila Giorgi.
Brit Heather Watson thrilled the homies with a comeback 1-6, 6-3, 8-6 upset over No. 32 seed Caroline Garcia of France.
“I only thought for a second that it maybe wasn’t meant to be this time,” said Watson, who saved three match points. “But I said, no matter what, if she wants this match, she’s going a have to win it. I’m not going to give it to her. I just stuck in there.”
Highlights of Wednesday play are (1) Serena Williams vs. Timea Babos, (4) Maria Sharapova vs. Richel Hogenkamp, (16) Venus Williams vs. Yulia Putintseva, net-crushing American veteran qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. (7) Ana Ivanovic, and (11) Karolina Pliskova vs. former WTA grass title winner Coco Vandeweghe.
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