Bouchard Channels ‘Calm Anger’ Into Winning At Istanbul

Eugenie Bouchard (photo: Gökhan Taner/@gokhantnr)

WASHINGTON, September 10, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova made her long-awaited return to the WTA Tour at the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championships Istanbul in Turkey on Thursday.

The 34th-ranked native of St. Petersburg, Russia, faced 272nd-ranked qualifier Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in a featured second-round match of this WTA International event on red clay at the Turkey Tennis Federation Tennis Club with a quarterfinal berth up for grabs.

Kuznetsova, idle since Doha in February, came in with a 3-0 lifetime record against the Canadian and hadn’t lost to a player ranked outside the Top 200 since losing to an unranked Kim Clijsters in the third round of the 2009 Western & Southern Open. She had only dropped just nine games in those three matches, while Bouchard, a former World No. 5, was looking for her first Top 30 win since beating Carla Suárez Navarro two years ago in Luxembourg.

On paper, it seemed Kuznetsova should win. Down 4-5 in the second set, Kuznetsova saved three match points on her serve during a 10-point tenth game that gave her some hope and relief. She went on to win the set in a tiebreak 7-5 when Bouchard double-faulted set point away. It leveled the match at a set apiece after Bouchard won the first set, also in a tiebreak, 7-3.

On this afternoon in Turkey, Bouchard had other ideas; she wasn’t ready to concede the outcome. Instead, Bouchard rallied in the third set and jumped out to a 3-0 lead after winning the first 13 points, then coasted to a 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-2 victory in two hours and 50 minutes over a deflated Kuznetsova. The victory improved her overall record (including qualifying draw matches) to 10-5 during this abbreviated 2020 season.

Looking back, the 26-year-old native of Montreal put together a good performance against the Russian veteran and won on her fourth match point – a dandy service winner – to advance to her third quarterfinal of the year.

“It was extremely tough mentally. I honestly just tried to not think about it all,” said Bouchard of the three missed match-point opportunities. She spoke with a small group of reporters via Zoom following her win. “I tried to block it out of my mind and to not think about it. I would be frustrated and angry and that wasn’t going to help me in the third [set]. So, I just put literally tried to have amnesia and forget about it.”

As the third set unfolded and Bouchard broke Kuznetsova in three straight service games, she channeled what she described as her “calm anger,” which helped her to stay focused.

“I wanted to just do the right thing after messing up in the second [set] and make things better,” she said.

Bouchard finished with three aces against two double faults, won points on 67 percent of her first serves, and saved two of the five break points she faced. She broke Kuznetsova’s serve five times in all and outpointed her opponent 115-101.

After winning two rounds of qualifying plus two additional main-draw matches, Bouchard’s confidence is riding high – especially with a win over a quality opponent like Kuznetsova. “It’s definitely going to help my confidence,” she said. “I already have confidence because I have done hard work and I feel like matches like this are the result of it. It takes a lot to get to this point. It’s a long time coming. So, it’s a validation that all the hard work is for something.”

Bouchard is still in search of her first WTA title since winning Nürnberg in 2014. Her journey will continue on Friday when she faces the No. 92 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, who upset sixth seed Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium, 6-3, 6-4, in one hour and 30 minutes. Kovinic saved all five break points she faced and won 71 percent of her service points.

Meanwhile, No. 106 Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus outlasted No. 182 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3, in two hours and 53 minutes, for her 10th win since the WTA Tour relaunch. It was the fifth time this year she’s come back to win after losing the first set, and it moved Sasnovich, whose career best ranking was No. 30 two years ago, back into the Top 100 with a projected live ranking of No. 86.

Sasnovich saved eight of the 15 break points she faced from Schmiedlova and broke her opponent nine times in 12 tries. She outpointed Schmiedlova 116-95.

Next Sasnovich will face 136th-ranked qualifier Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic, who took out fourth seed Caroline Garcia of France, 6-1, 6-4, in 69 minutes. Garcia came in to Thursday night’s match having won three of their four previous meetings, but this time was no match for Martincova. The Czech broke Garcia’s serve five times in seven tries and outpointed her 59-39.

Around the TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championships Istanbul

• No. 3 seed Polona Hercog of Slovenia defeated No. 87 Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 7-5, 6-4, to reach the quarterfinal round. The 49th-ranked Hercog broke Paolini’s serve four times during their one hour and 46-minute match on Center Court.

Next, Hercog will play 94th-ranked Paula Badosa, who eliminated No. 82 Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-1, 6-4, in a second-round all-Spanish matchup that lasted one hour and 37 minutes.

• No. 2 seed Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, ranked 48th, saw her first action of the tournament – and it lasted just 30 minutes. She opposed 117th-ranked Margarita Gasparyan of Russia and won by retirement, ahead 3-2. Gasparyan stopped the match with a left knee injury that had acted up during her first-round match on Wednesday against Turkish wild card Pemra Ozgen.

Next, Peterson faces No. 88 Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, who dropped only eight points on her serve in defeating eighth seed and 81st-ranked Misaki Doi of Japan, 6-2, 6-0.