CHARLESTON, S.C.—Eugenie Bouchard's struggles continue. The No. 7 player in the world tumbled out of the Family Circle Cup with an error-strewn 6-3, 6-1 loss to No. 66 Lauren Davis in the second round on Wednesday.
A semifinalist last year and the top seed this year, Bouchard heads into the European clay season with a meager 6-5 record on the year. She has lost her last three matches and dropped six consecutive sets, all to players ranked outside the top 65.
Bouchard continues to struggle to find her range on court. On Wednesday she hit 33 unforced errors to just 12 winners. Davis played an impeccably clean and aggressive match, outhitting Bouchard with 18 winners and just five unforced errors. Bouchard's hyper-aggressive game style, which took her to No. 5 in the world last season, has completely misfired this season. She split with coach Nick Saviano in the off-season and hired Victoria Azarenka's former coach, Sam Sumyk, after the Australian Open. Under Sumyk she is just 2-4.
“I definitely felt a little bit slow today, overpowered, which is never usually the case,” Bouchard said. “Usually I'm the one dominating. So it was definitely just not good. Whatever happened was not good.”
Bouchard has not made a definitive decision on whether she will play in Canada's Fed Cup tie against Romania next weekend, but as of now she's leaning towards “probably not.” Her next scheduled tournament is the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, which begins on April 20. Prior to taking a late wildcard into Charleston, she said she wanted to manage her schedule in 2015 to play fewer tournaments but took the wildcard in hopes of getting more matches to play into form. Now she's left wondering if it was a mistake.
“I like playing matches more [than practice]. So that was my idea, but maybe it's not the right one,” Bouchard said. “So it's little things like that where you gotta take a step back and think, O.K., clearly I'm not doing something right or someone around me isn't doing something right, so I need to find out what that is and try and make it better.”
Bouchard will need to find her form quickly. Last year she won her first WTA title on clay in Nuremberg, Germany, and followed that up by making the French Open semifinals. She did one better a few weeks later by advancing to her first Slam final at Wimbledon, where she lost to Petra Kvitova. As a result, she has a large cache of rankings points to defend over the next two months and her poor results on the spring hard courts have given her no cushion.
She has had to deal with various injuries this season, which has impacted her fitness. As a result Bouchard feels slow on court. She left the court on Wednesday shedding a few tears and candidly admitted she doesn't have a clear understanding of precisely why she's playing poorly.
“I think as soon as I got off the court, [I felt] definitely a bit of anger, but also kind of this confusion/quest to find what's wrong, like this searching feeling that, O.K., I know something's off,” Bouchard said. “I know something's not right. So I want to find it. And I know so much can get better, and I know I can do better.”
Bouchard said it's time to undergo an aggressive audit of her game. “Sometimes I think success masks issues or problems, so you learn a lot more when you lose,” she said. “So if there's something I'm doing wrong or any of my team is doing wrong, we're going to take [the] time.” Bouchard's loss punctuated a day of upsets and exits in Charleston. No. 2 seed Ekaterina Makarova withdrew from the tournament after winning her opening match, citing gastrointestinal illness. Last year's runner-up, Jana Cepelova, bowed out to Sara Errani in straight sets and Belinda Bencic, a semifinalist last year lost to qualifier Danka Kovinic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Coming off strong results at back-to-back tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, Sloane Stephens couldn't sustain her momentum, losing 6-3, 7-6 (2) to No. 15 seed Mona Barthel. Stephens kept the loss in context.
“I hadn't won that many matches [before] Indian Wells—I'd say that for me, even though I lost today, it's been a good couple of weeks for me and I'm really proud of the improvement, and being able to win a couple of matches was nice,” Stephens said.
No. 7 seed Madison Keys capped off the night session by snapping her two-match losing streak and beating qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2, 6-1.