Bethanie Mattek-Sands has continued her barnstorming run at Apia International Sydney by upsetting talented Canadian teen Eugenie Bouchard in the opening round.
Mattek-Sands completed a 78-minute 6-4 6-3 victory over the world No.32, who last week had enjoyed excellent form at the Hopman Cup in winning two of her three singles matches.
The victory takes Mattek-Sands’ winning streak to four after the American came through three rounds of qualifying to enter the main draw.
Given she sat out the 2013 season since September with a knee injury, she was extremely encouraged by her form.
“It’s been great. This is honestly what you come down her early for, it’s to get matches. I hadn’t played a match since September (before Brisbane) so this is perfect for me,” she said.
“I came out wanting just to get a good rhythm, play my game, be relaxed, and I was able to do that all these matches, so I’m really happy.”
Players traded breaks early in the opening set and from there it was hard to separate them on a warm and sunny day on Ken Rosewall Arena.
As the set progressed it was Bouchard who looked the more likely victor, moving ahead 15-40 in the eighth game and a point away from serving for the opener. Yet Mattek-Sands came to life, staving off the second of those break points with a forcing down-the-line backhand and benefitting from a pair of Bouchard errors to level scores.
Bouchard continued to err as Mattek-Sands forced the play, a strong return eliciting another mistake and helping the American break to lead 5-4. Solid around the net, Mattek put away an all-court point in the tenth game on her way to taking a one-set lead.
With the momentum firmly in her corner, Mattek-Sands capitalised on it with an immediate break to open the second set, only for Bouchard to smite a return winner and break back in the very next game.
Facing a pair of break points in the next game, Bouchard hit her way out of trouble, but began missing again to ultimately hand the world No.48 another break, which she consolidated for a 3-1 lead.
When Mattek-Sands won a fabulously athletic point with a running crosscourt forehand winner in the fifth game, the wind had visibly gone out of the young Canadian’s sails.
She dropped serve to 15 to fall behind 4-1, and just a few games later, dumped a final forehand into net to hand Mattek-Sands an impressive victory.
“I’m just trying to work on what I can control, my game, my shots, and that’s really all I’m focusing on,” Mattek-Sands said, in what is proving a winning approach.
Next up for the American is a far more daunting prospect – a second round assignment against top seed and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska. But thanks to the confidence she’s garnered from a solid week in Sydney, Mattek-Sands is keenly anticipating the challenge.
“Obviously she’s a good player, gets everything back, super consistent. She reads the ball so early so it’s going to be a great battle,” she observed.
“But I’m looking forward to it. This is why you train – it’s to play the best players in the world. So why not play the No.1 seed?”