In the first round of Aegon International in Eastbourne, Eugenie Bouchard will take on Varvara Lepchenko. After a second round defeat in Birmingham, Bouchard is trying to win more matches before Wimbledon where she was a finalist in 2014. As for Lepchenko, she last played at s-Hertogenbosch where she lost to Belinda Bencic.
It has been a year full of ups and downs for the Canadian who started the year still struggling with some symptoms of the concussion she suffered during last year’s US Open. At the start of the year, she booked her first final at Hobart but was defeated by Alizé Cornet in straight sets. Bouchard reached the final of Kuala Lumpur and even got the chance to serve for the championship, but lost to Elina Vesnina.
Her results on Grand Slams have not been the best, at least not compared to the results she got in 2014. In Australia, she faced a tough opponent in her second round match, Agnieszka Radwanska and lost in straight sets. Her form did not improve in time for the French Open where she lost to the eighth seed, Timea Bacsinszky.
This grass season was not the best for the former Wimbledon finalist. She suffered a harsh defeat at the Ricoh Open in her opening match against qualifier, Elise Mertens. At Mallorca, she lost in the second round in straight sets against eventual finalist, Anastasija Sevastova.
Lepchenko started her year at Brisbane where she reached the quarterfinals where she lost to Carla Suárez Navarro in three sets. At the Australian Open managed to get to the third round but was defeated by Shuai Zhang. From then her most outstanding result was at Nürnberg where she also made it to the quarterfinals after defeating Sabine Lisicki, but her run was ended by Mariana Duque-Marino.
The American suffered a first round loss at the French Open where she fell to Ekaterina Makarova in three sets. Her only tournament on the grass happened at the Ricoh Open where she first won by the retirement of Polona Hercog but later was defeated by the top seed, Belinda Bencic.
Eastbourne has a promising draw and the winner of this match will face Irina-Camelia Begu. In the third round, they could meet a grass specialist and also a former Wimbledon finalist, Agnieszka Radwanska. In the quarterfinals, Dominika Cibulkova or Svetlana Kuznetsova could be waiting. At the semifinal, they would have to pass Caroline Wozniacki, Lucie Safarova, Kristina Mladenovic or Timea Bacsinszky. In the final they could meet two times Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova.
This will be the third match between them, both happened in different times and show how they have changed over the years. Their first meeting was at Quebec City in 2011, Bouchard was still an unknown name around that time and was only seventeen years old. The Canadian had received a wildcard and even if she lost that first round match, she surely gave a battle to the American who had to win in three sets. Their latest encounter was in 2013 at Osaka where Bouchard prevailed in straight sets.
The Canadian has been struggling the last two years to gain back the form she had in her breakout year in 2014, however, this has not been possible. Grass is the surface where Bouchard has gotten her best results in a Grand Slam as she reached the final in 2014 where she lost to Petra Kvitova. Still, the Canadian hasn’t gotten a good result on this surface since then. As for Lepchenko, her best outcome on this surface comes at Wimbledon 2012 when she reached the third round.
Grass is the fastest surface and that could benefit both players who have an aggressive game, but most likely will help the Canadian since she usually takes the ball early which creates more acceleration and she can also control the points and change direction pretty fast to confuse her opponent. As for Lepchenko, she is a good server and if her serve is on point that could save her in times of trouble, whilst Bouchard has been struggling with her serve in the last matches.
As long as Bouchard keeps Lepchenko moving she will be in total dominance as the American lacks speed. Ironically, Bouchard main weakness could also be her defensive skills. This doesn’t mean that the Canadian is slow, but when she has to defend she is in a very vulnerable play since she plays with an absence of power. Bouchard has an unorthodox swing, this also causes her to not generate depth when she is defending.
Lepchenko, a left-handed, possesses a forehand with a lot of topspin, but the American needs to work on her angles as she often generates unforced errors and she can’t allow that since her backhand is her biggest problem and the reason for most of her mistakes during matches. The American must take into consideration that Bouchard lacks of variety and that she will commit regretful mistakes when she is trying to get the control on points.
There’s no doubt that in the shape Bouchard is right now, Lepchenko could pull a win over her. However, Bouchard is still a better player on this surface and if she stays patient and doesn’t try to hurry the points she will make it to the second round.
Prediction: Eugenie Bouchard in three sets.