Bouchard helps Canada bounce back, tie Ukraine in Fed Cup action
Bianca Andreescu loses earlier match
Playing at home and being back with Canada's Fed Cup team had Eugenie Bouchard looking like her old dominant self again.
The Westmount, Que., native, aiming to regain the form that once put her among the world's best players, defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2, 7-5 in World Group II action Saturday.
The victory tied the best-of-five series 1-1, heading into two singles and a doubles match Sunday.
"This was one my best matches of the year," Bouchard said. "The loud support of the crowd definitely helped me."
Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., playing in place of the injured Francoise Abanda, was unable to finish the opening singles match when she dropped to the court with painful leg cramps and had to retire while trailing 4-6, 6-4, 4-0 to Lesia Tsurenko.
The spectators packing the grandstands at the temporary 1,800-seat indoor venue at IGA Stadium let out roars as Bouchard controlled her match early against 78th-ranked Bondarenko and fought through rough patches in the second set.
The 24-year-old, who reached a career high of fifth in WTA rankings after making the Wimbledon final in 2014, has plunged to 117th following some difficult seasons. She returned to Fed Cup play after a two-year absence looking to get some matches in after starting this season 4-6 in singles.
One-sided 1st set
Bouchard took the last four games of a one-sided first set, but went down a break in the second. Bouchard fought back, then wasted three break points only to see Bondarenko double fault the next two points to give the hometown favourite a 4-3 lead.
She broke service again for a 6-5 lead before serving out the match.
Bouchard said she hurt her hand at the start of the match but hopes to be OK for Sunday.
"I saw the doctor before coming up to my press conference and I will see him again later," she said.
Bondarenko double faulted 13 times, but said that was mostly because of how well Bouchard was returning serves.
"She was returning hard so I tried to do something different," she said.
Abanda, from Montreal, was forced to withdraw 15 minutes before her match after suffering a periorbital contusion (eye bruise) in a freak fall during her pre-match warmup.
Her replacement, the 17-year-old Andreescu, was not slated to play singles this weekend, but performed admirably against 41st-ranked Tsurenko until blisters and then cramps began to affect her game in the second set. She won the first set and led 3-1 in the second when the pain began to set in.
She lost the next nine straight games when the pain became unbearable. She lay on the court for several minutes, receiving treatment from a trainer before being taken off in a wheelchair, giving a wave to the fans on her way out. The umpire declared the match over.
Winner remains in Group II
It was uncertain if Andreescu or Abanda will be able to play when play resumes.
Tsurenko said it wasn't a big adjustment learning she had a different opponent just before the match because she had never played either Andreescu or Abanda, but she felt for her teenaged opponent.
"I'm definitely happy. I got a point for my team, but in general, it's not nice to get a win because your opponent can't continue to play," said Tsurenko. "I felt bad for her because I know how it feels and how tough it is not to be able to finish a match. And also, it just hurts a lot. I know that."
Before the injury, Tsurenko said Andreescu was hard to handle with her combination of sharp serving and power shots, but gained confidence during a stretch of long games in the second set that may have aggravated her opponent's injuries.
"She was serving well, hitting winners, attacking a lot," said Tsurenko. "That was giving me a lot of trouble.
"I couldn't find my game because she didn't give me a chance to do that. She's just really powerful."
The winning country will remain in World Group II next year while the loser drops into zonal play.