INDIAN WELLS: Eugenie Bouchard took another step in her comeback by rallying for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over qualifier Risa Ozaki in the opening round at Indian Wells on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
The 22-year-old Canadian, who had a breakout year in 2014 when she reached world No. 5, is fresh off a run to the final of the Malaysian Open on Sunday where she lost to Elina Svitolina 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 7-5.
This was the first career meeting between Bouchard and Ozaki, who won two qualifying matches to get into the main draw. Ozaki proved to be a difficult opponent mixing up her shots and making very few mistakes in the early stages of the match.
“I felt out of sorts,” said Bouchard, adding she was fatigued from her hectic travel schedule. “I felt more emotional than usual. It was one of those days where I felt weird and off on the court.
“I just told myself ‘I love playing tennis I got to keep trying. If I lose I want to go down the right way, playing my game.’ At least it went the right way.”
Bouchard made the quarter-finals of the Australian Open last year but then saw her game go sideways. Heading into Indian Wells this year she was ranked 42nd in the world.
She suffered a concussion at the 2015 US Open after she slipped in the locker room and hit her head, causing her to withdraw from the Grand Slam event.
She is involved in a legal battle with the United States Tennis Association.
But Bouchard is now on the road to putting 2015 behind her and getting her game back in order.
The unseeded Montreal-born Bouchard needed almost two hours to win Thursday evening’s match which ended when Ozaki’s backhand sailed long.
Bouchard finished with six aces, two double faults and won 52 percent of her second-serve points.
The opening three games of the match went quickly as neither player dropped a point on serve.
Down 2-1 in the fourth game, Bouchard became the first to lose a service point, hitting a shot long to make it 40-15. Despite jumping out to a 40-0 lead she would go on to lose the game which allowed Ozaki to make it 3-1.
Bouchard had a chance to break back in the seventh game but she sailed an easy forehand long and Ozaki used those unforced errors by the Canadian to go up 5-2.
Ozaki broke Bouchard for the second time to win the set 6-2.
Bouchard won the first two games of the middle set before Ozaki levelled it by taking the next two.
Bouchard then broke Ozaki three times to go ahead 5-4 before serving out for the set.
Bouchard carried that momentum over into the final set as she built a 5-1 lead. Ozaki won the seventh game of the set before Bouchard clinched the victory by winning it on her first match point.
“She played better than I expected. I am looking forward to my next match,” Bouchard said of her second round encounter with American 21st seed Sloane Stephens.
The top 32 seeds received a bye into the second round at Indian Wells. This is the first time since the Australian Open, that all the WTA and ATP Tour’s top players are in the same place.
In the men’s draw, un¬seeded Juan Martin del Potro marked his return to the desert tournament with a dominating 6-4, 6-0 victory over Tim Smyczek.