NEW YORK – Once the poster girl for the future of women’s tennis, Eugenie Bouchard suffered another painful US Open exit on Wednesday, even if this time it was on court rather than the shower room.
The 23-year-old Canadian slumped to a 7-6(2) 6-1 loss to Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina in the first round, 12 months after also falling at the first hurdle.
“It’s one of those matches you kind of want to forget about,” said Bouchard.
“I know obviously the unforced error count was a bit too high, especially at the end of that first set. Yeah, I just didn’t really know what to do out there.”
One thing she is definitely doing is pursuing legal action against the tournament hosts, the United States Tennis Association, after she suffered a concussion when slipping and falling in the locker room during the 2015 tournament.
She was forced to withdraw before her fourth-round tie and won just one more match that season.
Against that bitter background, even Bouchard admitted she was surprised to be given the honour of playing the first match on the showcase Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday.
In many eyes, it was a strange decision for a tie featuring players ranked at 76 and 89.
“I’m able to concentrate on the tennis when I’m here, but, I mean, I definitely have bad memories from here two years ago,” said Bouchard, confirming that her legal case is still in progress.
It’s all a long way from the golden season of 2014 when her girl-next-door looks, easy-going personality and media-friendly appearances were lapped up after she made the Wimbledon final and semi-finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros.
But three years on, her career is in freefall after having been ranked at four in the world in 2014.
On Wednesday, Bouchard had chance after chance to impose herself on Rodina.
She led 6-5 in the first set and was a break up at 1-0 in the second, before she lost six games in succession.
The blonde Canadian hit 46 unforced errors in an ugly snapshot of her season so far. “My confidence is not high at all at this point in time, and I definitely had question marks about what my level would be like coming out today,” she said.
So far in 2017, Bouchard made the third round at the Australian Open, second round at Roland Garros and was a first-round casualty at Wimbledon.
She has just one run to a quarter-final and that came on the Madrid clay, where she downed Maria Sharapova on her way to a season-best performance.
Since the French Open, she has won just two matches on tour.
However, she is determined to scale the heights again, a sentiment summed up by the legend on the front of her T-shirt she wore for her news conference.
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios could not shake off a shoulder pain or cope with his frustration as he slumped to a 6-3 1-6 6-4 6-1 defeat by fellow Australian John Millman on Wednesday.
The 14th seed had treatment at the beginning of the third set after levelling at 1-1, but the mercurial Kyrgios gradually appeared to lose interest in the match.
The 22-year-old received a warning for allegedly cursing and broke his racket as he produced a string of unforced errors at Louis Armstrong Stadium.
After conceding defeat on the first match point, Kyrgios wished good luck to Millman, who next faces Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri or Brazilian Thiago Monteiro.