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Bouchard steamrolls her way into second round


NEW YORK — Eugenie Bouchard needs put her hardcourt struggles behind her if she wants to make another deep Grand Slam.

A 59-minute dismantling of Olga Govortsova in the first round of the U.S. Open will certainly go a long way.

Bouchard, the women’s seventh seed from Westmount, Que., steamrolled her way into the second round at Flushing Meadows with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Govortsova on Tuesday.

She produced 19 winners and broke on four of six chances against her 117th-ranked Belarusian opponent, whom she also beat two years ago on hardcourt in Washington.

“It’s definitely never easy in the first round of a Grand Slam, so I’m happy to get a win under my belt,” said the Wimbledon finalist. “I want to get on a roll and keep the momentum going.”

Bouchard, the only woman to reach the semifinals of all three previous Grand Slams this season, defended all three break points she faced while converting four of six break-point chances against Govortsova.

After failing to convert two break points in the fourth game of the first set, Bouchard won four straight games to take the set 6-2.

Two more breaks put Bouchard up 2-0 and 5-1 in the second set, then she finished Govortsova off on her first match point when the Belarusian hit the net.

Bouchard has excelled at Grand Slam events this season, but has struggled on the hardcourt this season winning just one match over three events leading up to the U.S. Open.

“The past few weeks have been a bit of a struggle. I don’t feel like I’m putting too many high expectations on myself,” Bouchard said. “I have the inner confidence that I know if I’m playing as well as I know I can that I can do well.

“I don’t want to set a specific goal to reach a certain round, because every round is so tough here. I always know that I can do well.”

Bouchard, playing the U.S. Open for the second time after winning a round in her 2013 debut, will next play Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

She said that she has put in extra time training in New York after recovering form a hamstring injury which limited her at her previous event in New Haven last week.

“I hurt it during a practice a few days before the event, and really cut down on practise before the event,” she said. “I didn’t feel so good on the match court.

“Since then we taped it, the injury is something that healed pretty quickly, so I was happy. The past five days, six days or so have been great. I really put in a lot of hours of practice here in New York City. I feel like it’s something I needed.”

Later Tuesday, the third-seeded men’s doubles team of Toronto Daniel Nestor and Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic defeated the British duo of Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins 6-4, 6-3.

There was also a big upset as 15-year-old American CiCi Bellis was in the process of stunning a Grand Slam finalist to become the youngest player to win a U.S. Open match since 1996, her father did his best to conceal his emotions courtside.

Like many a teen, CiCi has strict rules for Dad in public — even if his 1,208th-ranked daughter is pulling out a back-and-forth 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory Tuesday over 12th-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in the first round at Flushing Meadows.

“I’m told I cannot sigh and I cannot move or say anything (because) that distracts her, so I just have to sit there like a Sphinx and just smile and pray,” the elder Bellis, Gordon, explained with a deadpan delivery. “She hears me when I sigh. So I can’t sigh.”

Ah, yes, the joys of raising kids. And make no mistake, Bellis is a kid. She is home-schooled and about to start 10th grade. Her first memory of the U.S. Open is watching on TV while Maria Sharapova played. She likes to hang out at the mall with friends back home in California.

Asked whether she’s a fan of pop star Justin Bieber, Bellis answered, “I used to like him when I was younger, a couple years ago.”

Her victory was the most surprising of the afternoon session on Day 2 of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament. Another American teen, Taylor Townsend, was set to face two-time defending champion Serena Williams at night, after Roger Federer beat Marinko Matosevic 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) with Michael Jordan sitting in Federer’s guest box in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Growing up, he was my big sporting idol,” Federer said. “Having him here is unbelievably special.”

Aside from the Williams sisters, American tennis fans have not had much reason to cheer for their own in the latter stages of major tournaments in recent years.

That’s why the occasional run by a young U.S. player — think Melanie Oudin, wearing “Believe” on her sneakers in 2009 — stirs interest at Flushing Meadows.

“Believing was the No. 1 thing that I had to do today,” said Bellis, whose nickname CiCi is derived from the initials of her first and middle names, Catherine Cartan. “That’s what my coach told me before the match also: Just go out there and believe that you can win.”

Bellis is still young enough that she plans on playing in the junior tournament in New York. She lost in the third round of that event a year ago; she lost in the first round of the Wimbledon girls’ tournament last month.

But on Tuesday, there she was in front of a supportive, overflowing crowd on Court 6 at Flushing Meadows, taking it to Cibulkova, the runner-up at the Australian Open in January.

“I went into the match thinking it was going to be such a great experience,” said Bellis, whose rapid-fire sentences tend to finish with a gurgle of laughter, “but I never thought I would come out on top winning.”

 
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