MELBOURNE, Australia - Eugenie Bouchard was disappointed but not downcast following her 6-2, 6-2 defeat to Serena Williams on Rod Laver Arena, and left Australia satisfied with a trip that had been "more successful than not".
The Canadian was not content with how she had performed, particularly on serve - but also acknowledged the part Williams had played. "I served very poorly, especially in the first set - which is disappointing because I had been feeling good about that part of my game," said Bouchard afterwards. "But obviously, her putting pressure on my serve also leads to that - and sometimes I would even hit good first serves and suddenly [the return] was right at my feet at the baseline. That's what she does well. She played really, really, really well."
So well, in fact, that Bouchard was ready to declare: "She has to be the favorite to win this tournament."
Following the match, Bouchard said that coach Michael Joyce had told her that she "should have gone for her serve more - even if I miss some - to get some rhythm back." Against other players, the 24-year-old said, she could have regained that rhythm more naturally - "but against someone who's bossing returns, it's almost intimidating and it's hard to change the course".
When Bouchard saw her draw, she had felt it was bad luck to face such an illustrious champion so early in the tournament. "I complained to my mom," she admitted. "But she said, 'Actually, you've had good draws since you haven't been seeded - you haven't played a seed in the first round at Slams, you've had decent draws.' She always puts me back in my place."
The lesson Bouchard is taking from that - and from her defeat today? "You can't complain - it's just motivation to get back there."
Next stop is still, at present, the Newport Beach 125K next week: Bouchard is focused on playing matches and raising her ranking in order to be seeded at majors once again. But the former World No.5 leaves Australia pleased with her start to 2019, having also won the Auckland doubles title alongside Sofia Kenin and reached the singles quarterfinals, where she held a match point over eventual champion Julia Goerges before falling.
"I've been playing a lot of matches and feeling good, generally, in those matches," she said. "So just building blocks - today shows me what I need to work on to not play Serena in the second round.
"I think I've played some really good tennis and my ranking has improved, but I think I'm playing better than my ranking right now. It's the beginning of the year, and there's a long year ahead."