It took until the third round of the Italian Open for Eugenie Bouchard to play someone who is not a big name. After beating a former world number one and recent major champion in back to back matches, the young Canadian will take on the world number 36 Barbora Strycova in the round of sixteen in Rome on Thursday with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
The match will be the last on Centre Court, not before 9 pm local time (3 pm EST).
How they got here
Bouchard’s run has been far from easy, but it has been very impressive. In the first round, she battled to a three-set win over former world number one Jelena Jankovic. In the following round, she was the massive underdog against current world number two and recent Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber. Bouchard would race ahead by a set and a double break, only for Kerber to battle back and take a break lead in the third set. Bouchard was not deterred and managed to fight back to pull off the upset in three sets.
Strycova has had a much easier run so far in Rome and is yet to drop a set. However, she has had a far easier draw than the Canadian. In the first round, she cruised past Karin Knapp 6-2, 6-2 and followed that up with a 6-4, 6-2 win over qualifier Heather Watson. She will at the very least be well rested going into her next match.
Bouchard and Strycova have played four times before, with the Canadian emerging victorious on three occasions. However, Strycova won their most recent meeting last year in Madrid, also their most recent meeting on clay, in three sets. They’ve split their two clay court meetings, with Bouchard crushing Strycova in Nuremberg back in 2014. That match was the only one between the two that did not go to three sets. Out of the five sets they’ve played on clay, Bouchard has won three of them, two of them 6-0.
How tired will Bouchard be?
The energy levels going into this match will be very different. Bouchard has spent nearly an hour and a half more on court than Strycova in the first two rounds, and she had to play her matches in consecutive days while the Czech had a day off in between. Strycova will be more well rested and physically ready for this match. Bouchard will need to recover quickly, because if she’s tired after two tough matches, it will be tough for her to grit out another on the slow clay.
Can Bouchard dictate?
Clay is without question Strycova’s worst surface. She has only ever won one match at the French Open and has not reached a final on the surface in four years. Both of her previous finals on clay ended very poorly for the Czech. Even in doubles, where she has experienced more success, she struggles on clay. The Canadian is the far more comfortable of the two on the dirt. This clay in Rome is closer to what they played on in Nuremberg rather than Madrid, so it is the Canadian with the definite advantage.
If Bouchard comes out and plays her game, controlling rallies and keeping Strycova from attacking, she should be able to win. The key for her is to be the one attacking and not giving too many points away. She was fantastic for the first set and a half against Kerber before letting her level drop. She needs to play the way she did for the first half of that match. She was stepping up and pushing the world number two around the court. Especially considering that Strycova dislikes clay, if the match is played on Bouchard’s terms, she will be in a great position to reach the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Bouchard in three sets
Bouchard has shown in the past that she can play back to back long matches and it does not necessarily affect her play. The fact is that Strycova is not on the same level as Kerber or Jankovic. If Bouchard could come through those matches, she can win this one. Strycova should be confident and rested which will give her an advantage, but Bouchard will also be confident and on this surface, her form will lead her to victory.