By DAN IMHOFF
There’s no escaping the feverish hype of a solar eclipse when it’s swinging overhead into your ball-toss path. Still, it did little to distract Eugenie Bouchard on Monday as the Canadian set a blockbuster showdown with top seed and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska at the Connecticut Open.
The former world No.7 atoned for an opening-round loss on home soil last week in Montreal with a quick-fire 6-1, 6-3 defeat of home favorite Lauren Davis.
Even with a match to play, though, Bouchard wasn’t going to miss the chance to throw on a pair of the super-strength solar sunglasses to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon above.
“It’s so cool. I was kind of upset that I was playing exactly during it but at the same time I was like this is such a unique moment,” she said. “I was able to win a match during an eclipse. This is the only time in my career this will happen.
“Right before I went on the court after my warm-up, they were waiting for me to walk on and I walked by someone with the glasses who was looking up and I was like ‘hey give me those, I need to see this, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity’.”
There’s a sense of familiarity in facing an opponent you’ve known since childhood and earlier on Monday it was Timea Babos who handled it better in New Haven as she ended fourth seed Kristina Mladenovic’s run at the first hurdle.
The Hungarian dealt the 23-year-old her fourth straight defeat on North American hard courts with the 7-5, 7-5 result and in the process leveled the one-time doubles partners’ head-to-head record at 3-3.
After edging a tight opening set, the 66th-ranked Babos quickly fell behind 2-5 and stared down set points at 3-5 and 4-5. She steadied to reel off the last five games of the match, closing it out when Mladenovic sprayed a backhand wide.
“I’ve known her since I was eight years old,” Babos said. “It’s easy and tough at the same time. You kind of know what to expect, but sometimes it’s not so good knowing what to expect. Mentally that’s not always easy so I’m just happy I managed it today.
“She had set points in the second set and I got lucky on one.
“I had started off really well in the second set then she started to play well. I just knew with a little bit of time it’d come back.”
Babos will meet Daria Gavrilova for a place in the quarter-finals after the Australian held on for a 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 victory over Kristyna Pliskova.
The Czech lefty served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set only for the dogged Aussie to reel off the last three games of the match.
Romanian qualifier Ana Bogdan produced the first upset of this year’s Connecticut Open with a 7-5, 7-5 triumph over Russian No.5 seed Elena Vesnina.
The world No.127 had already won through three rounds of qualifying before a high-quality shoot-out with this year’s Indian Wells champion on Monday.
“She has a very high level and she pushed me to play so well today. I’m so excited and so happy I’m into the second round here,” Bogdan said.
“In a way, yes [qualifying helped] because I had some matches and had been through some tough situations, especially in the second round in qualies, but on the other hand I was a little bit tired … I just wanted to win so badly.”
Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova ensured there would be no Americans through to the second round when she ousted qualifying lucky loser Christina McHale. The No.6 seed prevailed 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
"I said to my coach at the change of ends I want to win," Pavlyuchenkova said. "It wasn’t an easy match to play.
"First I just needed to hang in there because I was dying in the second set. I’m not really at my best right now but im trying to get back there."
China’s Shuai Peng avoided joining the seeded casualty list when she narrowly held off Czech Katerina Siniakova. The eighth seed let a match point slip at 6-5 in the deciding set before closing it out 1-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
Belgian qualifier Kirsten Flipkens won her fourth straight match with a routine 6-2, 6-3 result over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.