Bacsinszky fends off Bouchard threat
Eugenie Bouchard falls short in spirited fightback as No.8 seed Timea Bacsinszky steadies to book a third-round berth.
There is a sense of familiarity that comes with returning to the site of the biggest match of your career.
Last time Timea Bacsinszky stepped onto the cavernous surrounds of Philippe-Chatrier Court she rode a wave of crowd support to steal a set from eventual champion Serena Williams on a sunny women's semi-finals day.
Much has changed for the 26-year-old Swiss in the year since.
Now a top-tenner, she is considered a bona-fide contender to push even deeper at Roland-Garros. Her routine-reading 6-4, 6-4 result over fellow former semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard on Thursday would indicate as much.
But the scoreline concealed a string of momentum swings the No.8 seed attributed in part to reacquainting herself with the arena.
"I couldn't get my bearings on a big court," Bacsinszky said. "There is a lot of space around the court. Even though I warmed up 30 minutes in the morning, I couldn't get the groove, and she had different tactics in comparison to the last time I played against her.
"She expected me to put a lot of variation in my game, so I had to find another game plan in order to get the upper hand."
It was the Canadian who settled quicker of the two, breaking for 2-0 and sustaining the advantage to 4-1.
"First win on Chatrier Court, this is something that will be etched on my memory."— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) May 26, 2016
Victory for Timea pic.twitter.com/iRI26JZyyu
But from there Bacsinszky began to find the form that had taken her to a title on clay in Rabat earlier in the season and to the quarter-finals in Rome in the lead-up to Roland-Garros.
The 26-year-old landed the break back with a forehand down the line drawing a long backhand from the Canadian, and played a crafty point of cat-and-mouse drop shots to outfox her opponent to level up at 4-4.
As the first hint of sun began to cast its shadows, it was Bacsinszky warming to the task. She ripped a backhand crosscourt to break for 5-4 and took the set when Bouchard swatted a backhand return into the net.
The pair had met once already this year in the round of 32 at Indian Wells, where Bacsinszky had secured a tougher three-set win.
And after Bouchard cooked a forehand long to concede the triple break in the second set on Thursday she stood one game from seeing her head-to-head record drift to 0-2 with an unwelcome bagel.
Serving for the match, though, the 26-year-old Swiss player's 10-game streak was snapped. She brought up a match point in the following game with a backhand drop-shot winner, but three straight errors let Bouchard off the hook.
Sensing her opponent was shaky with the finish line in sight, Bouchard broke at the fifth time of asking to reach 5-3 before holding to love, leaving Bacsinszky to serve for it a third time.
Staring down a further two break points, the wheels looked to be wobbling, but she would steady just in time, closing it out when Bouchard floated a backhand return long.
"I believed in my abilities," Bacsinszky said. "I know that I'm a fighter, and I knew that I would have found the solution. Even if I had lost the second set I would have found a solution in the third set."
For Bouchard, it meant another early-round defeat. Still languishing at No.47 in the rankings, she remained upbeat about the long-term after a troubling 2015 season.
"What's the most disappointing is my game feels good, my shots feel good, I feel good on the court," Bouchard said. "So, yeah, that's what hurts the most.
"I felt like I put myself in a good position in preparation and everything. I've done everything that I possibly could to be ready. I started out strong. The game plan was working."
The win ensured Bacsinszky remains the highest seed in her quarter of the draw after Australian Open champion and No.3 seed Angelique Kerber's first-round defeat. It also marked her first victory on Philippe-Chatrier Court.
"The temperature was totally different to that of last year in the semi-final, and the opponent wasn't the same," she said.
"I made a request to play on a big court, and even though you are seeded eighth in the world, you are not always authorised or entitled to play on a big court ... But first win on Chatrier court, this is something that will be etched on my memory. And I hope that I will play again on this court."
That's a given should she match her Roland-Garros run from last year.