After Victoria Azarenka's early exit, the Foro Italico provided a dramatic follow-up on Wednesday afternoon with Eugenie Bouchard and Angelique Kerber battling hard in a three-set contest — in the end it was the Canadian who managed to fight her way past the second seed 6-1 5-7 7-5, continuing a day of upsets in Rome. René Denfeld brings us the recap and quotes from both players.
Spectators were settling in on the famous Pietrangeli court in Rome, awaiting the most interesting contest of the day between Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber — but during the first one and a half sets, the players were striking the ball as though their rankings had been reversed.
The second seed from Germany was struggling to get her feet, her groundstrokes and her serve going and often couldn't do much more than watch the groundstrokes of the world number 46 fly past her.
"Today nothing was working", Kerber said after her match. "I was just lacking that certain zappiness and I just really don't have anything — I haven't had much rhythm over the course of the past few days and neither in Madrid. This has been going on for a while and I hope to find it again by Paris."
Angelique Kerbers Tag bisher. pic.twitter.com/vnGqnyIwjL
— Halbvolley (@Halbvolley) May 11, 2016
Bouchard, on the other hand, played some of her best tennis during the course of the first one and a half sets, not only moving fairly well on what's not necessarily her strongest surface, but lunging into her shots and hitting the ball crisp to make sure an out-of-sorts Kerber stayed that way.
"I did feel like I was playing better tennis today, especially at the beginning. That's how I want to play, you know. So that gives me confidence knowing I can play that way against one of the best players in the world," Bouchard explained and was particularly happy with how she started the match.
As the second set progressed, however, Bouchard surrendered a break lead and with a let cord and a shot here and there going against her, it looked as though the match might be slipping out of her hands.
"For sure I'm happy to win, but at the same time I'm disappointed in myself having a lead like I had or, you know, I feel like I could have done better in that second set, you know," the Canadian resumed.
"My goal next time is if I'm in a position like that is to really be more mentally disciplined and keep pushing. Because, you know, these players, if you give them a chance they will come back.
I definitely felt my level go down. I think, you know, I got a bit ahead of myself and a couple of times trying to finish the point too soon. I expected to kind of serve and win it right away. Obviously against someone like Angie, that will not happen all the time. So I think I was getting a bit ahead of myself and trying to just finish it, and that's not the right mentality for me to have."
Kerber herself battled tooth and nail on a day when she felt she was unable to muster up her A or even B-game and continued the momentum she gained by virtue of taking the second set and even went up a break early in the decider — while she remained dissatisfied with her overall level, one of the few positives she was able to take out of the match was her fight in the last two sets.
"This is the only thing I can take away from this match, because I got to look at the positives, because there were many negatives, but the good thing is that I know I can turn around matches — even on day when I can't get anything going in terms of my level, but today it just wasn't enough."
For Bouchard it was one of her biggest wins of the past year and a half, defeating the number two player in the world — particularly after her difficult end to a difficult year 2015.
"Well, I have been putting in a lot of hard work since I was able to start training again at the end of last year. You know, I don't think there is like a magic formula to know exactly when you will peak. For me, I just put my head down and kept working, trusting that it will come at some point," the 22-year-old said looking back at her last few months.
I'm trying to get that done. You know, today was one match, so I can't just relax and be like, Okay, it's done, you know. I have another match tomorrow. Just gotta keep going."
In her third-round match, the Canadian will face Barbora Strycova in what is sure to be quite the contrast of styles.