Andreescu downs Bouchard in all-Canadian first-round tilt at Rogers Cup

TORONTO — Bianca Andreescu and Eugenie Bouchard started exchanging messages over Instagram when they found out they’d be playing each other in the first round of the Rogers Cup.

Any nerves about the all-Canadian matchup were set aside when Bouchard told the 19-year-old Andreescu: “Let’s put on a show.”

Under the lights at centre court, they did just that.

Andreescu, who grew up in nearby Mississauga, Ont., defeated Bouchard 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 Tuesday night in two hours nine minutes in front of a packed Aviva Centre crowd that seemed to be rooting for both players.

“We were actually saying how cool it is that Felix (Auger-Aliassime) and Vasek (Pospisil) were playing each other in the first round (in Montreal) and then me and her, and that’s good for Canadian tennis,” Bouchard said. “I was like ‘yeah, let’s just put on a show out there. And she was like ‘yeah, let’s go.’”

Andreescu, in her first match since re-aggravating a shoulder injury at the French Open in May, started slow but finished strong to take the match.

She won the deciding point when Bouchard sailed a return wide. Andreescu, who had been animated throughout the match, replied with a subdued fist pump before hugging her Fed Cup teammate at the net.

She won 69 per cent of her first-service points, converted 6-of-12 break points and saved 4-of-8.

But Andreescu looked to be in trouble early on.

Bouchard, of Westmount, Que., broke Andreescu in the match’s opening game and set the tone for the first set. Then Andreescu responded impressively with three breaks in second.

And she took her game to another level from there.

“She started really smacking the ball in the second set and just shows what a good player she is,” Bouchard said. “She has a lot of good power on her balls when she hits it well.”

When Andreescu ran into trouble midway through the third, double-faulting twice to give Bouchard a break and tie it 3-all, she responded by breaking right back, firing a forehand winner past Bouchard and screaming into the crowd.

Andreescu wasn’t sure exactly what triggered the turning point. Things just started to click.

“In the first set I was a bit nervous. I’m not going to lie,” Andreescu said. “But I shook those nerves and I tried to refocus for the second set.

“And I stuck to the right tactics. I made sure to put pressure right from the start of the point, and I think that’s what I really did today.”

The win was Andreescu’s second against Bouchard this year. She crushed her compatriot 6-2, 6-0 en route to a tournament title in Newport Beach, Calif., in their only other career meeting.

She will face Daria Kasatkina in second round Wednesday afternoon. Kasatkina advanced by upsetting No. 12 seed Angelique Kerber on Monday night.

The 27th-ranked Andreescu had a rapid rise up the rankings earlier this year after a great start to the season, highlighted by her title at a big tournament in Indian Wells, Calif.

But Andreescu had played just one match since March because of the shoulder injury, which she said wasn’t bothering her on Tuesday.

“I haven’t felt this strong in a while,” she said.

Bouchard, a former world No. 5, has slipped to No. 112 in the rankings after winning just two matches at the WTA Tour level this year. She was given a wild card into the Rogers Cup, a tournament that she’s historically not done well in.

The 25-year-old Bouchard has advanced past the second round just twice in nine main-draw appearances at the WTA Premier 5 event. Her best result was a third-round appearance in Montreal in 2016.

But Bouchard said she gained a measure of confidence by taking Tuesday’s match to three sets.

“She’s a great player, so to battle with her till 6-4 in the third gives me confidence and just motivates me to work even harder,” Bouchard said.

Andreescu, who’s had the luxury of staying in her own house and eating home-cooked meals this week, said competing so close to where she grew up added to the victory.

“One of the best feelings, really,” she said. ”To be able to play in front of my home crowd is always a special feeling. I’ve had many memories here.

“I played two years ago on that court, so I had a bit of experience of what to expect, but today was crazier than usual because I was playing a Canadian too.”

Earlier Tuesday, Ashleigh Barty lost 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 to American Sofia Kenin in second-round play, putting the Australian’s No. 1-ranking in peril.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams also made an early exit at the Rogers Cup. The 39-year-old American lost 6-4, 6-2 to Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the first match of the day on centre court.

Donna Vekic, Alison Riske, Katerina Siniakova, Shuai Zhang, Iga Swiatek and Ekaterina Alexandrova also advanced to the second round with wins Tuesday.

Meanwhile, American star Sloane Stephens, the seventh seed at the tournament and the 2017 U.S. Open champion, was upset by qualifier Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 7-5 in the late match Tuesday.

Bouzkova advanced to the second round by beating 16-year-old Canadian wild card Leylah Annie Fernandez on Monday.

Fernandez suffered her second straight loss of the tournament Tuesday when she and doubles partner Simona Halep fell 1-6, 6-3, 10-5 to Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke on one of the smaller courts in the afternoon.

“For me it was great to play with a very young player,” said Halep, the reigning Wimbledon champ. “She played really well today.”

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