Eugenie Bouchard breaks ugly dry spell
CANADIAN superstar Eugenie Bouchard opened the 2020 season with 7-5 7-5 win over Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens in the first round of the ASB Classic on Monday.
It was Bouchard's first victory above a 125K event (the lowest level on the WTA Tour) since last February in Dubai, providing the perfect start to the new year as she aims to scale the heights of women's tennis again.
The 262nd-ranked Bouchard saved two of three break points and capitalised on three of six break-point opportunities against the world No. 72.
Flipkens, 33, has finished in the top 100 the past eight seasons.
Bouchard, 25, has experienced a big drop in the rankings since reaching No.5 in 2014.
Bouchard will face No.8 seed Caroline Garcia of France in the second round.
Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki says she's knocked off one of her final career goals before retiring from tennis after winning a doubles match with close friend and long-time rival Serena Williams.
The powerhouse duo entertained the crowd in Auckland with a straight sets win in the first round, playing together for the first time after years of high-stakes singles struggles.
Former world No.1 Wozniacki has only prevailed once in 11 meetings with American Williams, who ranks as arguably the world's greatest ever female player. The 29-year-old Dane plans to retire after the looming Australian Open in Melbourne so it was no surprise she was beaming after the 6-2 6-4 win over Japanese pair Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya.
"It wouldn't be the same if I didn't get to play with her at least once on the same side," she told Sky Sport NZ.
"She's beaten me a lot of times on the other side so it's nice that we can win together.
"It was so much fun, I really enjoyed that. I've been around for a long time and to get to play with Serena was amazing."
Wozniacki hasn't played doubles in more than three years, something that surprised Williams, who described her partner's form as unbelievable.
"I can't let the rest of our amazing careers go without playing with her - a grand slam champion and a long-time No. 1," Williams said.
"Of course I want to share the court with her."
Wozniacki will play her last top level match against Williams in an exhibition match in Copenhagen in May.
Elsewhere, teenage star Coco Gauff looks ready to build on her 2019 heroics after breezing past her Slovakian opponent in the first round in Auckland. The 15-year-old American who generated global headlines at Wimbledon six months ago outclassed Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3 6-1 in an hour on Monday, looking assured in blustery conditions.
Gauff unleashed a range of winners, including some fine touches around the net where her mobility was impressive.
Ranked lower than her opponent - at 68th compared to 61st - Gauff took command of both sets via an early service break and rarely looked rattled. It sparked memories of her sensational run to the fourth round at Wimbledon followed by victory at the Linz Open in October, when she became the youngest WTA tournament winner in 15 years.
The former world No. 1 junior is in the same quarter of the draw as her idol Williams.
Williams was handed a late change of opponent for her opening match on Tuesday after Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova withdrew because of a viral illness. Williams will instead face Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi.
Kuznetsova continued a trend of former grand slam winners pulling out. Jelena Ostapenko withdrew on Sunday for "personal reasons" while reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu dropped out days earlier with a knee complaint, promoting Williams to top seed status.
There was mixed news for two other seeds on the tournament's opening day. Six-seeded Swede Rebecca Peterson was beaten 7-6 7-6 by Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek while eighth-seed Caroline Garcia of France fought back to beat American Taylor Townsend 5-7 6-3 7-5.