In one of the most eye-catching of all the Rogers Cup first rounds, Lucie Safarova and Eugenie Bouchard face off in Montreal. The clash is live at 2.30pm local time (7.30pm BST.)
The Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova is a former Grand Slam finalist and a former top ten player. Canada's Eugenie Bouchard is also a former Grand Slam finalist and a former top ten player. Both of them peaked at no. 5 in the WTA world rankings within the past two years. Yet at the Premier-level Rogers Cup – staged this year in Montreal for the women – neither women is seeded for the event. Hence, a tough road lies ahead of whoever wins this match.
It is difficult to predict who that player could be. Bouchard broke out as a promising teenager – reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open as a 19-year-old, and ending that season with three of four Grand Slam semifinals having contained her name. But the 2014 Wimbledon finalist – who was hammered 6-3 6-0 in 55 minutes by Petra Kvitova – has not been anywhere near to those heights since, and was never able to establish herself outside the major events. A single WTA title – won in the shadow of the French Open in 2013 – is to her name.
Lucie Safarova may hold less deep major appearances - with two semifinals and one final, at the 2015 French Open, to her name – but she is certainly the more experienced of the duo. With seven WTA singles titles to her name – the 29-year-old having appeared in 16 finals to Bouchard's five – she is a major doubles champion and a two-time Olympian. Bouchard, 22, recently announced she will be participating in her first Olympic Games in less than two weeks.
Both stars have slid down the rankings, but Montreal's best hope at a title winner – Bouchard – has fallen the furthest. Her current ranking of no. 42 may reflect only the current season – in which she has won back-to-back matches only eight times in 16 tournaments contested, favourable draws seeing her to two finals – but it could just as well reflect that past 18 months. Underwhelming for almost the entirety of 2015, the former prodigy lost all but one match contested against opponents ranked outside the top 100. Comig into this tournament last year, she had won just two of her previous 14 matches contested.
Lucie Safarova, meanwhile, has endured an unprecedented free-fall after reaching the WTA Finals – thanks in part to injury, which forced her out of the Australian Open and multiple surrounding events. Nevertheless, the lefty lost her first five matches on her resumption to competition – before embarking on a title-winning run at home in Prague. The five wins, featuring defeats of Karolina Pliskova and Samantha Stosur, gave the world no. 28 some much-needed confidence – something that her forthcoming opponent is abundantly lacking. Self-belief was once one of 'Genie' Bouchard's most lethal weapons. Now, her mental game is lacking legs.
Safarova is getting her hard-court season started at the Rogers Cup, coming off a run to the fourth round of Wimbledon. But while Bouchard lost her only clash since Wimbledon – in straight sets to Camila Giorgi in Washinton D.C. - the competitive experience on this American surface could give her an advantage against a tough opponent.
These two have faced off once before. And while this came almost three years ago, in Quebec City, it's fair to say that both women were probably closer to their best form than they are currently. It was the semifinal stage of the event when they clashed, and it was Safarova who came out on top. Nevertheless, the 3-6 6-3 6-2 scoreline suggests that all this time later, things could still be close on Tuesday in Montreal.
Lucie Safarova and Eugenie Bouchard face off in the Rogers Cup first round on Tuesday at 2.30pm local time (7.30pm BST.)