MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Former golden girl Eugenie Bouchard’s hopes of rehabilitation at the Australian Open came to a swift end on Wednesday as wily Agnieszka Radwanska sent the Canadian spinning out of the tournament with a 6-4 6-2 defeat in the second round.
The 21-year-old Bouchard, whose career hit the buffers last year following her break-out 2014 season when she reached the Wimbledon final, crumbled under the lights of Rod Laver Arena after sprinting into a 4-2 lead in the first set.
She lost six straight games to gift the set and an early break in the second to the Polish fourth seed, and was then powerless to mount a challenge as her forehand misfired and the errors started piling up.
Staring down the barrel at 5-2, Bouchard was presented with one last chance to rally, having prised three break-points as Radwanska served for the match.
But the 37th-ranked Canadian squandered them all in a run of four unforced errors, capitulating meekly at the tournament that was the springboard for her sensational 2014.
“I definitely felt in control at that moment … You can’t ever back off her and give her a chance to breathe,” Bouchard explained to reporters about her failure to capitalise on such an encouraging start in the night session match.
Bouchard made the semi-finals at Melbourne Park and the French Open that year before going one better at Wimbledon, prompting pundits and former players to declare her a future grand slam champion.
Reaching a peak of world number five, she made the Australian Open quarter-finals last year before the wheels fell off with first-round exits at the French Open and Wimbledon.
A more promising run to the fourth round of the U.S. Open ended in drama when she slipped and fell on the locker room floor and had to withdraw from the tournament with concussion.
She later sued the United States Tennis Association and was unable to complete a match for the rest of the year.
Though speaking of new beginnings in Australia and bringing a new coach in former Maria Sharapova mentor Thomas Hogstedt, Bouchard appeared to arrive with other baggage.
Her encouraging run to the final of the Hobart International was ended with a 6-1 6-2 meltdown against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet, and she complained of being distracted by “personal family issues” at home.
However, she tried to remain upbeat after her loss to Radwanska.
“If I lose every match I’m still happy to be out there doing what I love,” she said. “I just want to play as much as possible. I kind of almost want to play catch-up.”
(By Ian Ransom, Editing by Martyn Herman)