TORONTO — Eugenie Bouchard said she was lacking confidence after being bounced from the Rogers Cup in the first round on Tuesday.
And though she offered up a fairly simple fix to that problem — "win matches" — that’s been easier said than done for Canada’s top women’s singles player lately. Her latest setback, a straight-sets loss to 21-year-old qualifier Donna Vekic of Croatia, helped underscore that.
Bouchard fell 6-3, 6-4 in the afternoon tilt on the Aviva Centre’s centre court. Vekic, playing in her main draw debut at the Rogers Cup, broke the Westmount, Que., native six times and won 17-of-27 first-serve points.
"I think I just made too many unforced errors, you know. I’m obviously a bit low in confidence right now," Bouchard said. "It’s tough to get through tough matches when you’re in a moment like that."
Bouchard, who has dropped down the rankings from a career-high No. 5 in 2014 to her current spot at No. 70, started Tuesday’s match on the wrong foot. She was broken four times in the first set, including the deciding game — a 10-minute long affair that saw the opponents hit deuce six times. She also had 19 unforced errors to Vekic’s 10.
Bouchard broke Vekic for a 2-1 lead in the second set but lost her next serve, responding by bouncing her racket off the ground in frustration. Each player held serve over the next five games before Bouchard hit the net down 40-30 to give Vekic the match.
Mississauga, Ont., teenager Bianca Andreescu, coming off a quarter-final run at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., last week, lost 6-4, 6-1 to 55th-ranked Timea Babos of Hungary in her Rogers Cup main-draw debut.
"I think I was very well prepared, I had tactics on how to play her but everyone has their days and today was her day," Andreescu said. "Congrats to her."
The 17-year-old Andreescu, ranked 144th in the world, was the last remaining Canadian in the women’s singles draw. Montreal’s Francoise Abanda’s was ousted Monday night.
Bouchard said before Andreescu’s match that she would welcome a successful run from the teen.
"I think she’s a good player," she said. "I practised with her a little bit last week in D.C., and I think she had a good run last week. So, you know, someone else can carry the burden of Canada."
Bouchard rose up the rankings when she reached the Wimbledon final in 2014 after two straight Grand Slam semifinal appearances.
Asked if she’d prefer that fans and media ease up on her, noting she’s still young enough to turn her career around, Bouchard replied "yes and no."
"I mean, I guess I’m relatively young, but I feel old in a way," the 23-year-old said. "You know, I’ve been on tour a bunch of years already. And I think it’s important to feel the pressure of time a little bit, to get into action and not just relax and let years go by. That would be the worst thing I could do.
"But if the media doesn’t put pressure on me, I mean, that would be nice."
Vekic, who will face World No. 3 Angelique Kerber in the second round, won her spot in the main draw via a two-round qualifying tournament over the weekend.
Bouchard was a wild-card entry in her seventh main draw appearance at the Canadian event. Her best showing at a Rogers Cup came last year in Montreal, when she lost to Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova in the third round.
It wasn’t all bad news for Bouchard on Tuesday, though. She won her first-round doubles match with World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova less than two hours after losing to Vekic. The two beat Dominika Cibulkova and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-2.
"It’s something I thought about doing a little more to get more match play," Bouchard said of playing doubles. "Even if it’s doubles, and I generally am more of a singles player, it’s still pressure of a match and better than practice and more fun than practice."
Earlier in the day, 18-year-old American Catherine Bellis rallied from down a set to defeat Julia Goerges 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. She will face eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Agnieska Radwanska, Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Vesnina, Ashleigh Barty, Caroline Garcia and Magdalena Rybarikova also advanced.
In second-round play Tuesday, fifth-seed Elina Svitolina beat Daria Kasatkina, sixth-seed Caroline Wozniacki downed Ekaterina Alexandrova and Barbora Strycova toppled Daria Gavrilova.