A YEAR ago at Wimbledon, Eugenie Bouchard and Simona Halep met in a semi-final showcasing two of tennis’s up-and-coming stars.
Bouchard was only 20, Halep 22. Bouchard won that match-up to reach a Grand Slam final in the sixth major tournament of her career, a month after Halep was the runner-up at the French Open.
I’m always trying to keep the belief and stay true to myselfEugenie Bouchard
Back at the All England Club yesterday, both women lost in the first round to opponents ranked outside the top 100. For Bouchard, also a semi-finalist at the Australian Open and French Open in 2014, it was the latest setback in a season full of them, including 12 losses in her past 14 matches.
“It’s been a huge learning process to have great results and then have, you know, so much attention, then have bad results. Just learning about the ups and downs of life and tennis, how things won’t always go perfectly, like I expect them to,” said Bouchard, who said a torn abdominal muscle limited her practice time leading into the match.
“I’m always trying to keep the belief and stay true to myself and do what I need to do to become as good as I know I can be.
“So it’s really just been kind of eye-opening, a learning experience,” she added, resting her chin on her right hand, then added with a laugh: “But I’m good for the learning experience to be over now.”
Her 7-6, 6-4 exit against 117th-ranked qualifier Duan Ying-Ying, of China, made the 12th-seeded Bouchard the first Wimbledon finalist to lose her opening match at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament the following year since Steffi Graf in 1994.
Bouchard double-faulted 10 times and said her muscle problem, which was taped yesterday, didn’t so much affect her strokes as it prevented her from preparing properly.
She pulled out of a tune-up tournament at Eastbourne last week because of the injury.
“Probably wouldn’t have been smart to play here, but I couldn’t pass on Wimbledon,” said Bouchard, the only Canadian to reach a Grand Slam singles final.
“In my head, it was no question I was going to play, even though I was advised not to.
“It’s just the way I am. It’s so hard to be forced not to play tennis, especially at Wimbledon.”
Duan lost all four previous matches she’d played at majors, and has never been past the quarterfinals at any tour-level event and had never before defeated anyone ranked higher than 75th.
“I didn’t know who she was,” said Bouchard, who went 19-4 in Slam matches last year but is now 4-3 in 2015 and will fall out of the top 20 in the rankings after Wimbledon.
Bouchard began working this season with coach Sam Sumyk after splitting with Nick Saviano and was asked whether she’s considered making changes to her team.
“Maybe I should,” Bouchard replied with a chuckle. “We’ve definitely not started well at all. But I believe in him and he believes in me. As of right now, it’s still the plan. But there definitely has to be some improvement, some changes, because I expect to do a little better than this.”
Halep, the No 3 seed, was treated by a trainer for a lost toenail late in the first set of what would become a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 defeat against 106th-ranked Jana Cepelova of Slovakia.
“I knew it would be a difficult tournament for me,” Halep said, explaining that her confidence was low because of poor recent results.
“But I didn’t expect to lose in the first round.”
Highly seeded players rarely do anticipate that sort of quick departure, of course, and four past Wimbledon champions in action yesterday all won in straight sets as the sun, unobstructed by clouds, brought the temperature to about 30C.
Petra Kvitova, who beat Bouchard for the 2014 title, won 28 of 29 points on her serve – a double-fault in the final game was the lone blemish – in a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Kiki Bertens that required all of 35 minutes.
The second-seeded Kvitova, who is from the Czech Republic, said her parents made the trip for her first-round match, but will be heading home right away. “I have to say ‘Sorry’ to them” for such a short match, Kvitova joked.
Seven-time champion Roger Federer, two-time winner Rafael Nadal, and 2013 champion Andy Murray also advanced easily to the second round.