World No 2 Simona Halep is not having an easy time of it in Prague, surviving another scare before battling back from a set down to beat Barbora Krejcikova, 3-6 7-5 6-2, on Thursday; while wild-card entry Eugenie Bouchard advanced by overcoming Tamara Zidansek, 7-6(2) 6-7(2) 6-2 to reach her second quarterfinal of the year.
I really try to refrain from posting bikini pictures. I really do. Apparently if you post that it means you don’t play tennis or something. People think social media is an exact representation of your day when it’s not. I can go running for eight hours then go to dinner and post a selfie and people think I just went to dinner. Genie Bouchard
Down 2-0 in the final set, Halep replied by winning 6 consecutive games, and converting her first match point when the 118th-ranked Krejcikova double-faulted, taking her just over 2 hours to quell the Czech wildcard.
“I didn’t feel great,” she said after the match. “My energy was not great, but sometimes it’s more important to win matches you’re not playing so great in, and you just find a way to fight and win it.”
Having needed a deciding tiebreak and 7 match points to fend off Polona Hercog, 6-1 1-6 7-6(3), in the first round, the Romanian found herself stretched to the limit by an idiosyncratic opponent, against whom she faced a point to go down a double break in the 3rd set.
“It’s never easy to play someone who is so good in doubles, because she hits different angles, which makes it very interesting and very difficult,” admitted Halep. “It wasn’t a very good level from me, in my opinion, but the most important thing is that I was able to win.
“She played great and it was really tough to find my rhythm. I just stayed focused for every ball I played.”
The Romanian needed 6 set points in the second set to level the match, having lost her serve 6 times up to that point and double-faulting 10 times in the match.
“My serve is not great at this point but I keep working on it,” Halep said. “Hopefully, it’s going to get better day by day.
Halep took a medical timeout after the second set for her right shoulder and needed more treatment in the final set
“Then, I could serve a little bit stronger, so I needed that and I’m happy that it worked,” she said.
Both players have got to the World No 1 ranking and multiple Grand Slam trophies, Halep in singles and Krejcikova in doubles.
Despite the latter’s relative low ranking and paucity of accomplishments in singles, in which discipline she is yet to post a Top 30 win, the 4-time doubles major champion’s elite talent, honed with late mentor Jana Novotna, is no secret, and it was very much on show during stretches of today’s match before Halep asserted her authority, reeling off the final six games in a row for a ‘hidden bagel’ that belied how tough the contest had been.
Next up for Halep is lucky loser Magdalena Frech, who reached her maiden WTA quarter-final earlier with a 3-set win of her own, the Pole overcoming Arantxa Rus, 6-3 2-6 6-4, in 2 hours and 8 minutes.
Bouchard, the former World No 5 and Wimbledon finalist, squandered a 4-1 lead in the second set before prevailing in the decider after almost 3 hours to set up her quarter-final against 3rd-seeded Elise Mertens.
The only player from north America to travel to Prague this week, Bouchard won her first round match on Monday, a comprehensive 6-0 6-3 win over Veronika Kudermetova, and now has prevailed to make her second quarter-final appearance of the year.
She says she has been working hard in recent months during the lockdown and hopes to resurrect her career, working with Rennae Stubbs in Prague.
While she still has a huge social media following, Bouchard says that people comment only on what they see, without having any background or context.
“I really try to refrain from posting bikini pictures. I really do. I’m trying my best. Apparently if you post that it means you don’t play tennis or something,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s influenced a little bit how I act.”
“I’ve been through the whole spectrum of people loving you. When everything’s going great, people love you.
“When everything’s going bad, people hate you. I’ve been through that wave so many times. It just sucks.
“People think social media is an exact representation of your day when it’s not.
“I can go running for eight hours then go to dinner and post a selfie and people think I just went to dinner.
“People need to realise it’s only what people choose to show, that’s what’s out there.”
Her resurgence was already evident at the start of the year when she reached the last 8 in Auckland to kick off 2020.
On Thursday she delivered payback for one of her most heartbreaking defeats of the 2019 season – a 6-3 5-7 8-6 loss to Zidansek in the first round of Wimbledon.
In a similarly tight match, Bouchard edged a first set characterised by several multi-deuce games, let a 4-1 second-set lead slip as her opponent’s elegant clay-tailored game came into its own and then ran away with the decider.
“I felt OK out there,” assessed Bouchard afterwards. “At times I played well but at times I didn’t play well at all – my opponent has a good game for clay, she really spins the ball up and she has a good forehand.
“So when I wasn’t playing well, I felt she was controlling the play with her forehand, and when I was playing well I was dominating a little more – ultimately that’s how I played well in the third set to win.
“I was pretty proud of myself with how I was able to bounce back after losing that second set.”
Surviving the lengthy affair that would normally draw fans from around the grounds in a crowd-free situation was also a new experience.
“We’ve been practising for months, so it feels like a practice match or an exhibition – but very real, because we have an umpire and ballboys,” mused Bouchard.
“It’s interesting, because tennis is already so individual – the fans can help you keep going if you’re tired or it’s getting close.
“I’ve definitely had matches where the fans have helped, for sure. But now with this, you feel even more like it’s just you.
“You don’t have teammates to help you – and now in this case, no fans. So it’s probably a little tougher mentally.
“I tried to think of fans watching online, or my family waking up to watch – I know they’re there somewhere around the world!”
In the only other singles match played on Thursday, Sara Sorribes Tormo eased past Laura Siegemund, 6-2 6-3, to play either Irina-Camelia Begu or Leonie Kung in the quarter-finals