Germany’s inconsistent but talented Mona Barthel, who pushed Eugenie Bouchard to three sets in Wuhan last year, awaits the world no. 7 as she finally gets her BNP Paribas Fortis Diamond Games campaign underway.
Bouchard and Barthel are scheduled on court in Antwerp at 8pm (7pm GMT). Click here and register your details to watch the match streamed live online to your mobile, computer or tablet:
World no. 7 Eugenie Bouchard must be getting used to be intensively scrutinized wherever she goes, after her breakthrough season in 2014 which saw her reach the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens and the Wimbledon final, as well as claiming a maiden title in Nurnberg and qualifying for the WTA Finals Singapore. Anointed as the new golden girl of women’s tennis, Bouchard made a decent job of defending her semifinal points in Melbourne, reaching the quarterfinals before being ousted by eventual runner-up Maria Sharapova in comprehensive style.
Now the flagship player at the first edition of the revived BNP Paribas Fortis Diamond Games, Bouchard is under additional scrutiny after hiring Samuel Sumyk, the former coach of Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka – a hire which came as a surprise because it was not common knowledge that Azarenka and Sumyk had split, working together as recently as the Australian Open.
‘We work on a few different things I hadn't worked on before,’ Bouchard said of Sumyk. ‘I like his mentality and his approach. We haven't been working together very long yet, only a week, so we'll see how it goes, but I'm excited to play this week in our first tournament together.
‘But generally I'm keeping my game style. Each coach has their own philosophy and their own ideas. I want to keeping playing the aggressive way I like to play, but we'll be changing a few things here and there. I'm always trying to improve, and that's the point of a new coach - hearing a new voice.’
Mona Barthel (LUC CLAESSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Bouchard will have to adjust quickly to the indoor conditions in Antwerp – although she has been practicing there since Friday, skipping Fed Cup to give herself time to attune – as she takes on Mona Barthel in the second round for a place in the quarterfinals.
Ranked as high as world no. 23 in 2013, Barthel – currently ranked world no. 42 – has had what you might call an up and down career so far. Capable of fluid, all-round tennis that’s a pleasure to watch as well as lethally effective, Barthel has three titles to her name including the Premier-level Open GDF Suez and the Bastad title in 2014 (where the highest-ranked opponent she beat in order to claim the title was world no. 54 Kaia Kanepi); she’s also more than capable of playing herself off the court early and often.
Barthel’s 2015 season hit an early snag when she tore a ligament on her ankle in December, forcing her to undergo rehab and miss important preparation time, and the German was also hampered by illness in Auckland, where she lost to world no. 99 Ana Konjuh, and Hobart, where she lost an extremely tight match to qualifier Madison Brengle who went on to reach the final. Falling to Petra Kvitova in the second round of the Australian Open, Barthel eased herself into her BNP Paribas Fortis Diamond Games campaign by defeating local qualifier Klaartje Liebens 6-0, 6-2.
Bouchard and Barthel have played once before at last year’s Wuhan Open, where the Canadian won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. While Bouchard did go on to reach the final in Wuhan, she was also carrying a persistent thigh injury and at the end of a long season, so we should expect her to attack the Antwerp match with much more energy and vigour. A straight-sets win over Barthel would be the perfect start to her Antwerp campaign.
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Bouchard and Barthel are scheduled on court in Antwerp at 8pm (7pm GMT)