Bouchard leads Canada over Serbia to advance to World Group playoffs
Sunday, Feb 09, 2014 04:45 pm
MONTREAL - Eugenie Bouchard did everything she could to help her country.
Bouchard won both her singles matches, including the clincher on Sunday, to power Canada to a 3-1 victory over Serbia in its Fed Cup World Group II tie over the weekend.
In beating Serbia's Vesna Dolonc 6-0, 6-3, the Montreal native gave Canada a 3-0 lead in the best-of-five tie in front of her hometown fans at the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex.
"I think I played two solid matches, and I helped Canada," said Bouchard, 19. "I'm very proud of that. The whole team was very excited all week."
Bouchard agreed to represent her country in the Fed Cup despite her busy international schedule. On Monday, she hops on a plane to Doha, Qatar, where she faces American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the Qatar Open the following day.
But Bouchard, who's represented Canada since 2011, thinks that's a small price to pay for wearing the Maple Leaf on her cheek, as she did over the weekend.
"I fully embrace it. It comes with the job," she said. "This is where I want to be. I love playing for my country. I try to enjoy every moment when I play for Canada."
On Saturday, Bouchard beat the No. 149-ranked Jovana Jaksic 6-1, 6-0 in a dominant performance to give Canada a 2-0 advantage, after her teammate Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., defeated Dolonc 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.
Canada will now advance to the World Group playoffs, giving the team a chance to advance from the World Group II to a higher division that includes the world's eight best teams.
A draw on Tuesday will determine Canada's next opponent, and whether that tie will be held at home or on the road, when the Fed Cup resumes on April 19.
Canadian team captain Sylvain Bruneau had nothing but praise for the rising-star Bouchard.
"She's very patriotic, and people need to recognize that," said Bruneau. "It won't be easy for her (in Doha), but she did it to represent her country. She's always been there for us."
Joining Bouchard (ranked No. 19 in the world) and 274th-ranked Wozniak on the Canadian team were Toronto's Sharon Fichman (No. 112) and Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski (No. 224).
Fichman and Dabrowski lost to Serbia's Jaksic and Nina Stojanovic 6-2, 3-6, (10-8) in doubles play on Sunday afternoon.
Because Canada had already defeated Serbia in the tie, the match was simply a formality.
After each team took a set, and with the 10-point tiebreak tied 8-8, Fichman missed her final two shots to hand Serbia the doubles triumph.
But the story of the day was Bouchard's singles match. Leading 5-3 in her second set, Bouchard sent the No. 117-ranked Dolonc the wrong way to secure the advantage. She then cemented the victory emphatically with an ace.
"I was happy I could stay with her and fight," said Bouchard. "When it counted, I did what I needed to do."
She needed less than 20 minutes to take the first set, surrendering just seven points in the process.
But Dolonc put up a fight in the second set, breaking Bouchard in the first game. She then held serve to force a 2-2 tie.
"It was a closer battle (in the second). She came up with some good points, and I had a few unforced errors," said Bouchard, who settled down after a number of uncharacteristic mistakes. "I tried to win one point at a time and stay in the moment. And that helped me."
Bouchard went on to win four of the next five games to seal the victory.
"The tempo was very high," said Dolonc of the 59-minute match. "There was constant pressure on me. I was too late all the time. It was really quick. It was tough for me to find my game."
Bouchard's victory meant that Wozniak could skip her singles match.
"They deserved this win," said Serbian captain Dejan Vranes of Canada's overall victory. "Simply, they were the best. I wish them luck. They deserve to be in the World Group next year."
Vranes' team took to the court minus such established stars as Jelena Jankovic (ranked eighth in the world), Ana Ivanovic (No. 12), and Bojana Jovanovski (No. 41). While Ivanovic and Jovanovski are dealing with minor injuries, Jankovic recently chose to retire from international play.
Bruneau doesn't think the absence of those great Serbian players diminishes what Canada did over the weekend.
"These players played with all their heart on the court," said Bruneau. "They played for Canada, they played for themselves, and they played for the team. And they gave it their all."