A blockbuster first round clash at the Italian Open will see former world number one Jelena Jankovic take on young gun Eugenie Bouchard. The two-time champion in Rome will be looking to help turn her season around at one of her best events while the Canadian will be hoping to build some momentum before the French Open after a tough spring on the clay.
Seasons so far
Jankovic has not had a very good 2016 to date. She has a losing record on the year, 6-10, and is in the midst of a three-match losing streak. She has not even won a set since the third round of Indian Wells back in March. Her best result this year was Indian Wells when she reached the fourth round (after having a first round bye). The California desert is the only place all year she has won consecutive matches.
Bouchard has been experiencing a bounce-back year in 2016. She’s 16-9 on the year so far, which is already four more match wins than she had in all of 2015. While she has not made any deep runs in the big tournaments, she has reached a pair of finals already, in Hobart and in Kuala Lumpur. The one worrying sign for Bouchard is an abdominal injury that forced her to retire in Charleston and miss the Fed Cup.
Bouchard leads their head-to-head 2-1, having won their last two matches. However, the pair have not played since Charleston in 2014. Jankovic and Bouchard have played twice before on clay, both times on the green clay of Charleston. They split those meetings, with Jankovic claiming her lone win over the Canadian in straight sets in 2013 while Bouchard returned the favour a year later in three sets.
An X-factor in this match is Eugenie Bouchard’s health. She has not spoken about the injury recently, and there was not any word as to whether or not it affected her performance in Madrid, where she lost in straight sets in three tight sets to eventual quarterfinalist Irina-Camelia Begu. The injury did not appear to be a problem for Bouchard, but this injury has plagued the Canadian for months, so it could potentially play a role
Can Bouchard attack effectively?
A lot in this match will likely come down to Bouchard’s attack. At times this year, the Canadian has been ruthless, painting lines with every shot and forcing opponents to scramble. While this is often her game plan, there are days when it doesn’t work and she either hits a ton of errors or her opponents are able to turn the tables.
Jankovic is the type of opponent who could keep Bouchard from attacking the way she wants to and forcing errors. Bouchard is going to need to be efficient and not give too much away. She cannot let Jankovic dictate or even manipulate the pace of the rallies. The Canadian will need to step up and put the pressure on Jankovic without making too many mistakes.
Prediction: Bouchard in three sets
The thing is Jankovic’s counterpunching game has not been all that effective against anyone this year, including players who are not as strong at attacking as Bouchard. Her clay court skills and fondness for the clay in Rome might help her a bit, but if the Canadian is even at 70 percent and is not giving points away with errors, she should be able to wear Jankovic down and advance.