MELBOURNE: Struggling star Eugenie Bouchard won her first match of the year Thursday, posting a 6-2, 6-0 defeat of Australian teen Destanee Aiava at the Kooyong Classic in Melbourne.
The Canadian had gone down in three group matches last week at the Hopman Cup in Perth and was eliminated in the first round at Hobart on Monday, denting her Australian Open preparations.
“I was happy to be out there in a pretty official-feeling match,” said the 23-year-old. “There were stands, a crowd, and an umpire. It was like a practice match but kind of real.”
With time running out for her to be ready for the opening Grand Slam of the year, the 2014 Wimbledon finalist, now ranked 83rd after a dismal last season, eagerly accepted a late invitation for a hit-out at Kooyong.
Bouchard, who made the Australian Open semi-finals in 2015 and the quarters a year later, said her current tennis was a work in progress after changing her routine and coaches in the off-season.
“It’s progressing,” she said. “I was just focussing on myself and the things I have to work on throughout the match.”
She added that a buttock injury she suffered in Perth last week was fine, with the Canadian keen to eliminate all memories of a poor 2017 campaign.
“I don’t want to feel any continuation of 2017, it really wasn’t a good year for me. I worked hard in the off-season, changing some things,” she said.
In other matches at the exhibition event, France’s Richard Gasquet won his second match, overcoming Australian Matthew Ebden 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).
“It was perfect in these conditions,” the 31-year-old said. “I’m preparing my game to be ready for the Open and to perform there.”
Gasquet, who has never gone past the Australian Open fourth round, added: “I’ll keep up the training. I have no injuries and am feeling great.”
World number five Dominic Thiem, meanwhile, withdrew from a scheduled match as he recovers from illness, disrupting his Grand Slam plans.
The Austrian arrived late in Melbourne from Doha after pulling out prior to last weekend’s Qatar Open semi-final with Gael Monfils after contracting a virus.
He lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic on Wednesday and decided against playing any more matches.