Two WTA 250 tournaments follow the US Open this week, in Slovenia and India, with high quality fields in both, led by Emma Raducanu in Portoroz, and Alison Riske-Amritraj in Chennai.
I arrived here a little early for the tournament as I was worried about jet lag. It's very humid here and I generally sweat a lot. Handling the conditions is the biggest challenge. I live and train in Florida so I am used to the humidity but the Chennai weather is something else. I needed seven towels and I had to keep them in different corners of the court. I also changed a few sweat bands. Eugenie Bouchard
While the top 4 seeds start their campaigns on Tuesday at the Chennai Open, two Canadians opened their accounts with straight set wins on Monday.
Wild-card Eugenie Bouchard won her first match on the WTA Tour in 18 months, beating Joanne Zuger from Switzerland, 7-6 6-2, while 7th-seeded Rebecca Marino handled Russia’s Anna Blinkova, 7–5 6–2.
Bouchard, who has been recovering from shoulder surgery, last recorded a WTA Tour victory at the Guadalajara Open in March 2021, made her come-back at the Vancouver Open in August, but lost in the first round to Dutchwoman Arianne Hartono, and then the 28-year-old failed to qualify for the main draw of the US Open.
“The break away from tennis really tested my patience,” Bouchard admitted. “It was a long process and I have never done those things before. But I never wanted to stop.
“It’s just the beginning of my comeback and, hopefully, I will have more years on the Tour.”
As a result of her long lay-off, the 2016 Wimbledon finalist and former World No 5 has plummeted down the WTA rankings in recent years, and currently sits at World No 902.
Bouchard had reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open and French Open earlier that same year, and despite losing to Petra Kvitova at the All England Club, was thrust into the limelight, signing lucrative sponsorship deals with Coca-Cola, Rogers Communications and Nike.
She could not replicate her success on the court, though, failing to make it past the 3rd-round of a Grand Slam since 2016 and winning just a single WTA title during her career at the Nuremberg Cup in 2014.
She is nevertheless one of the most recognisable tennis players around and, while recovering from her injury, she began working as a commentator for Tennis Channel.
“I arrived here a little early for the tournament as I was worried about jet lag,” she said. “It’s very humid here and I generally sweat a lot. Handling the conditions is the biggest challenge.
“I live and train in Florida so I am used to the humidity but the Chennai weather is something else.
“I needed seven towels and I had to keep them in different corners of the court. I also changed a few sweat bands,” she added.
Against Zuger, Bouchard was accurate on just 54.2 per cent of first serves, but compensated by converting 54.5 per cent of second-serve points, while she also took 5 of 8 break point chances while defending 3 of the 6 break points she faced.
“I tried to stay focused and fought back,” Bouchard said. “It took some time to shake off the rust.
“I think it will take a while for me to get back to form. Initially, I was disappointed that I wasn’t up there. Still looking for consistency. It’s a work in progress.”
Bouchard’s compatriot, 31-year old Marino, is coming off a run to the 3rd-round at the US Open that moved her WTA ranking to No 90, her highest since she was ranked 83 in February, 2012.
She decided in late February 2013 to take an indefinite break from tennis because of mental health issues, during which time she studied English literature at the University of British Columbia and was part of the rowing team.
She became a certified Club Pro 1 coach at the UBC Tennis Centre before signalling in October 2017 her intention to return to the pro circuit, and won the title at her first tournament back, a $15k in Antalya.
Against Blinkova, Marino won 70.5 per cent of first-serve points and broke the Russian 6 times in her 9 chances, while Blinkova had 7 break opportunities, but only managed to convert on 3.
Marino will face Katarzyna Kawa in the 2nd-round, the Pole having defeated Australia’s Astra Sharma, 6-4 6-3, holding a 1-0 record over the Canadian after beating her in the 1st-round at Wimbledon earlier this year.
Bouchard’s next opponent is another wild-card, Karman Thandi, who rallied past No 8 seed Chloe Paquet from France, 4–6 6–4 6–3, for an upset victory in her native India.
Thandi, ranked 359 in the world, saved 5 of 8 break points, and came back from down 3–2 in the second set, to win 4 of the last 5 games to extend the match.
Once in the decider, it was the Paquet who got the break early and led the set 2-0, but Thandi again showed her mettle by breaking back and going on to hold her serve, after which she took charge, landing forehands on the lines when it mattered most to notch up the biggest win of her career.
“This win means a lot,” she said after the match. “It was a mental battle and I am happy that I could pull through,” 24-year old Thandi said.
Meanwhile, 5th seed Rebecca Peterson from Sweden beat Andorra’s Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, 6–2 7–6(4), while Qiang Wang, the No 6 seed from China, outlasted Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, 6–4 1–6 6–4, and next will play Japan’s Nao Hibino, who beat fellow qualifier Jana Frett from Croatia, 6-0 6-4.
Peterson will take on young Czech talent, Linda Fruhvirotova, who battled past another qualifier, En-Shuo Liang from Taipei, 4-6 6-1 6-3.
Riske-Amritraj, the World No 29, is the favourite for the title, coming off a good performance in the US hard court season, and is eager to build on that in the land of her in-laws as she is married to Stephen Amritraj, son of former Indian Davis Cup captain Anand Amritraj.
The withdrawal of the World No 17 Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia, who lost in the semi-finals of the US Open, and Belgian Elise Mertens (33), due to scheduling issues and injury respectively, has robbed the tournament of some of its star power, and places the focus firmly on Riske-Amritraj to add to her 3 WTA Tour titles.
The American opens her campaign against Russia’s Anastasia Gasanova on Tuesday, and could run into the winner of the Hartono versus Britain’s Katie Swan match in round two.
The top seed’s main challenge could likely come from 2nd seed Varvara Gracheva from Russia, Poland’s Magda Linette, the 3rd-seed, and 4th-seeded Tatjana Maria of Germany, who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon.