WHAT HAPPENED: Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, selected for a starring role under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium, was cruising right along on Thursday night. Displaying the aggressive, baseline-hugging game that propelled her to the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens, as well as the final of Wimbledon this year, she smoked 80th-ranked Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the first set in just 28 minutes.
That was it for smooth sailing. With the winds swirling, the 20-year-old’s game dipped. Her forehand errors mounted, giving Cirstea – who just a year ago was No. 21 in the world – the confidence to take the long, error-plagued second set in a tiebreak.
Alternating breaks of serve and momentum shifts continued deep into the third, with each player able to summon her best only when down. When Bouchard, who had 29 unforced errors in the match, was unable to depend on her game, she relied upon her irrepressible fight to emerge with the victory, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4.
“I definitely had to battle in the third set,” Bouchard said. “I just believed in myself.”
WHAT IT MEANS: Bouchard is now 18-3 in majors, but her record is just 20-14 the rest of the year. The Canadian followed a run to the Wimbledon final - her third strong Slam result - with a dismal hard-court season: She won just one match in three tournaments coming into the US Open. Whether depleted or distracted, Bouchard hasn’t been nearly as sharp this summer as she was in the previous seven months.
THE QUESTION: Bouchard has shown herself to be a fierce competitor, not satisfied with semifinal or final Slam finishes. Yet with No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 3 Petra Kvitova in her half of the draw, how likely is she to improve upon her great success at the other majors this year?