DUBAI, UAE -- Wild card Eugenie Bouchard of Canada made a successful Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships main-draw debut, easing past Belarusian Vera Lapko, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to a second-round meeting with former World No.1 Simona Halep.
In the first meeting between the two players, it was World No.80 Bouchard who ousted World No.60 Lapko after one hour and 20 minutes of play. 2014 Wimbledon runner-up Bouchard matched Lapko in winners, but Lapko fired 35 unforced errors in the match, 14 more than the Canadian's miscue count.
"[Lapko] obviously can come up with some great shots and great points," Bouchard told the media, following her win.
"Sometimes I didn’t feel great out there with my movement, sometimes I felt like I was slipping, sometimes I felt a bit off, but I’d just keep going and understanding that things are not perfect," Bouchard elaborated. "I’m trying not to be a perfectionist anymore, that’s what I’m working on."
Former World No.5 Bouchard will now face Halep, who will rise back to World No.2 in Monday's new rankings. Halep has a 3-1 head-to-head lead in their rivalry; the Romanian picked up her wins at huge events like the 2014 WTA Finals, the 2014 BNP Paribas Open, and the 2018 Australian Open, but Bouchard did claim a massive win over Halep in the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2014.
"It’s just about going out there and trying to give it my all and give myself the best chance, and I don’t want to have any regrets after, no matter what happens," Bouchard said about her upcoming clash with Halep. "That’s really my number one goal."
Bouchard broke Lapko’s serve in the first game of the match, but Lapko was able to survive another break point at 3-2 and subsequently got back level at 3-3 with strong returning. However, the Belarusian’s hard work was undone by unforced errors in the following game, as she dropped serve again to give Bouchard a 4-3 advantage.
Bouchard held for 5-3 with an ace, then reached set point in the next game via an error-forcing deep return. There, Lapko double faulted to hand over the one-set lead to the Canadian. Bouchard won two-thirds of points when she returned Lapko’s second serve during the set, while the Belarusian fired 18 unforced errors to just six winners in that timeframe.
After an exchange of breaks in the first two games of the second set, Bouchard drew ahead at 4-2 after breaking Lapko’s serve for the fourth time, on her fourth break point of the game. A recovery from 0-30 in the following game gave Bouchard another service hold, and put her one game away from victory.
Lapko faced a match point while serving at 5-2, but a netted return by Bouchard caused that chance to go begging, and the 20-year-old Belarusian held on for 5-3. Serving for the match in the next game, Bouchard stumbled while Lapko’s forehand found greater potency, and the Canadian was broken.
But Bouchard regrouped, cracking aggressive returns in the following game to reach 15-30, and a subsequent Lapko double fault gave Bouchard two more match points. One final forehand error by Lapko ended the clash, sending Bouchard into an intriguing tussle with Halep in the second round.