Canadian Genie Bouchard traveled to Madrid, Spain to kick off her European clay-court campaign after a little post-Fed Cup break at home in Montreal, recharged and ready to make a new start.
Unfortunately for the world No. 6, her opener against Barbora Strycova Sunday was a continuation of her last three months, and puts her current losing streak at six matches.
It took barely a half-hour for Bouchard to inflict a bagel, a 6-0 set on Strycova, who is ranked No. 22 in the world but who was coming in with a three-match losing streak of her own, no record of success in Madrid, and an 0-3 head-to-head record against the Canadian.
Bouchard led 6-0, 3-1 ... and then it all began to seem rather familiar. She lost 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 and now will have to wait at least 10 days to try again at a similar top-level event in Rome.
We say "seem", but there was no way for Bouchard fans across the globe to follow this one. Bouchard was scheduled on the third court in Madrid during a packed day of tennis - No. 1 Serena Williams, No. 2 Simona Halep, No. 3 Maria Sharapova and No. 16 Venus Williams against former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka were scheduled on the stadium court, to give you an idea of the star-studded field.
Stadium 3 is technically a TV court. But the cameras were under wraps until the last few games, with only one match – Andrea Petkovic vs. Flavia Pennetta, who followed Bouchard – made available for broadcast from that court on Sunday (they don't treat the men this way in Madrid - only the women).
A quick scan of Tweets from fans on hand indicates Bouchard was, well, the Bouchard of old as she began the match, hitting the ball deep and moving forward when the opportunity presented itself. Then? A barrage of errors as Strycova gained in confidence.
A visit from coach Sam Sumyk when she was down 1-4 in the third set offered a brief flurry; Bouchard won her serve, and earned her only break point of the third set – and an opportunity to get back in contention – with Strycova serving at 4-2, 30-40. But it was quickly snuffed out.
Bouchard managed to win just 2-of-11 points on Strycova's second serve in that set. And in the end, even though she won just three fewer points in the match (75 to 72), it wasn't that close.
Bouchard is now 6-8 for the season, and four of those wins came in her season opener, the Australian Open. Since she broke into the top 10 last year, she is 15-17.
The sight of those two comprehensive ankle supports probably isn't a welcome one, either, with all the additional sliding needed on red clay.
The post-match handshake was eagerly anticipated by handshake aficionados everywhere because of Fed Cup, and Strycova's rep as the "handshake professor" (earned during this moment against Elina Svitolina last season).
Bouchard, perhaps unwisely, decided not to play doubles in Madrid; you'd think she could have gotten a wild card if she wanted one, given Alizé Cornet and Heather Watson, neither with her ranking or following, received one. She hasn't played doubles, coincidentally or not, since a first-round loss with Watson at Wimbledon last year, and indeed played just three times during 2014.
But it would be a good opportunity to at least get on a tennis court with little pressure, perhaps have a little fun, and find some of those old reference points again. Surprising it hasn't been considered.
As it is, Bouchard has a first-round bye in the Rome tournament. If the best way to turn things around is get right back on the horse again, there won't be an opportunity to do that for another 10 days.
She is in little danger of losing her No. 6 ranking; her closest pursuer, Ana Ivanovic, is just 63 points behind her in the up-to-the-minute rankings. But Ivanovic was a quarter-finalist in Rome a year ago. To pass Bouchard, she would have to reach the semi-finals, and that would mean going through the likes of Serena Williams.