Red-hot Agnieszka Radwanska halted the comeback of Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard Wednesday as the Australian Open fourth seed battled into the third round 6-4, 6-2.
Bouchard, rebuilding her career after a head injury at the US Open last year, showed glimpses of her old form but could not match the Pole’s ferocity in the night match on Rod Laver Arena.
Radwanska, who this month eased above Maria Sharapova to be fourth on the world rankings, will now play either Monica Puig of Puerto Rico or Czech qualifier Kristyna Pliskova.
“I’m very happy with my game today because getting Genie in the second round was not an easy match,” she said.
“She is playing much better and it was a great challenge. I’m very, very happy I could play my best tennis today.”
Despite the loss it was an encouraging step on the road back for Bouchard, 21, as she works to pick up the pieces after sustaining a head injury when slipping in the locker room at Flushing Meadow.
It forced her out of her fourth-round match with concussion and she remained troubled for the rest of the season.
The setback was costly for a player who showed huge potential by making her first Grand Slam semi-final at Melbourne Park in 2014 and quickly became a tour favourite with her fearless, take-no-prisoners game style.
She followed up that year by making the French Open semi-final and Wimbledon final, reaching a career-high world ranking of five in October 2014.
Bouchard made the last eight in Melbourne in 2015 but then went into freefall, barely able to win a game before the US Open injury.
– Turning the screw –
Now ranked 37, she came out firing and with the crowd firmly behind her, won her opening service game with a smash.
Radwanska also held thanks to some solid groundstrokes in a match that became a baseline battle.
It went with serve until the sixth game when Bouchard produced a delicate drop shot on her second break point to go 4-2 in front.
But she threw away the advantage immediately with some loose shots and a double fault, allowing Radwanska to break back.
A backhand long gave away another break and left Radwanska serving for the set, which she finally won despite Bouchard saving four set points.
The accomplished Radwanska, who has been on a roll, winning the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore and the Shenzhen Open this month, turned the screw by breaking in the first game of the second set.
It turned out to be decisive with Bouchard searching unsuccessfully for a way back, with another break in the seventh game putting Radwanska firmly on course for victory.
While Radwanska has long been among the elite women’s players, she has yet to break through at the majors, coming closest at Wimbledon in 2012 when she was runner-up to Serena Williams.
She is seeking to go one better than the semi-finals here, her deepest run in Melbourne which came in 2014.