LONDON — America’s hopes here at Wimbledon, all but dashed Saturday when Serena Williams was sent packing, disappeared entirely on Monday when John Isner was mowed down like so many blades of the AELTC’s tidy grass by Feliciano Lopez.
So, if you are scoring at home, it’s time to put down the scorecard, No. 2 pencil, and whatever red-white-and-blue talisman you keep by the nightstand. The Yanks are all done. For the first time since 1911, no American made it beyond the third round of The Championships.
Yet fear not, because, hey, well, uhhhhh . . . we’ll always have Montreal.
Eugenie Bouchard, her game as complete and delectable as the prix fixe menu at the city’s finest French restaurant, served up a scrumptious dismissal Monday of Alize Cornet, the surging French dynamo (No. 1 in her country) who was the one Saturday to cut short Williams’s stay. The 20-year-old Bouchard, who grew up just down the street from the old Montreal Forum, erased Cornet in straight tight sets, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, with Cornet ultimately falling prey to Bouchard’s persistence and her own inconsistent forehand.
“That’s definitely the most physical match I’ve played, I think, this tournament,’’ said Bouchard, who also became the first Canadian woman to reach the Round of 16 here since 1997 (Patricia Hy-Boulais). “I’m proud that I really, really fought till the end. She’s a good fighter, too. We were really just battling.’’
The women’s side won’t crown a champ until Saturday, but the Bouchard-Cornet matchup was of near-championship caliber, with neither allowing a service break in the first set. The two high-energy performers, their taut, compact games nearly as identical as their appearance (similar dresses, visors, and bobbing ponytails), entertained the jam-packed Centre Court crowd with their near-flawlessness, their strength of shot, and overall aggressiveness.
The match only disappointed in that it didn’t go the full three sets, in large part because of Cornet’s faltering forehand and Bouchard’s ability to break back to even, 5-5, in the second set. Once pulling even in that 10th game, Bouchard allowed Cornet but a single point en route to a 6-5 lead and then closed it out, 7-5, again giving up but a single point.
At the moment, Bouchard, 20, and Cornet, 24, look poised to become the faces of a new guard on the women’s side, even if neither has won a Slam event. Bouchard only last year stopped playing junior matches, having won the junior title here in 2012. Cornet looked as if she were ready to make a big run at prime time 3-4 years ago, only to see her game and temperament too often crumble.
“It was like the floor came out from under her,’’ noted the legendary Martina Navratilova, commenting during BBC’s coverage of the match, impressed with how Cornet has recovered her poise. “She was crying, sometimes inconsolable on the court [in prior years] . . . she had to face her inner demons.’’
Cornet barely flinched here despite the defeat, other than a brief tempest when she tossed her racket into the ground upon losing the first set’s tiebreaker, 7-5. Both women lost a pair of points in the thick of the 12-point duel and Cornet moved ahead, 5-4, with her serve on the ninth point. Bouchard clipped the next two on serve to go ahead, 6-5, and then won it when Cornet nailed a fairly routine backhander into the net. Muttering in French, the 5-foot-8-inch righthander slammed the racket headfirst into the ground, but otherwise maintained composure, other than mild gesticulations when officially challenging line calls (all of which she lost).
The women’s game, headed for years by the powerhouse Williams, is somewhat in transition, in part because an age spread of 5-7 years in this game is now generational. With Williams’s star apparently fading, Maria Sharapova, fresh off her win at the French Open, is considered the favorite here (adding to her emotional triumph at SW19 in 2004). But it would not be a shock now for Bouchard to win. She nearly upset Sharapova at the French, winning handily in a first set before her game began to dismantle midway through the second — ultimately leading Sharapova to 7-5 and 6-2 wins.
To start the Round of 16, Bouchard will face either Sharapova or Angelique Kerber.
“I would keep my basic game against both players,’’ said Bouchard.
The basic Bouchard approach is based on energy — strength of legs and force/accuracy of shot. Now under the fulltime tutelage of Nick Saviano, the former pro out of Stanford, she is gaining in confidence and power. Her top first serve vs. Cornet was 107 miles per hour, her average pegged at 101. Whether her time has arrived or not remains to be seen, but her play in Paris and here has shown that no one is going to blow her off the court.
“Just playing week in, week out, against a different level than what I was used to really opened my eyes to, ‘OK, this is what it’s like,’ ’’ said Bouchard, reflecting on her ascent since exiting junior play after 2012. “I think by just playing so many matches . . . helped me.’’
Meanwhile, no one knows what will prop up Uncle Sam’s racket swinging sons and daughters. Isner, the last hope here, edged Lopez via a first-set tiebreaker, then lost set Nos. 2 and 3 by tiebreakers (6 and 3) before folding up, 7-5, in the fourth. In a span of 48 hours, Williams and Isner were both sent off, hopes and dreams stuffed into AELTC goodie bags.
Adding to the Yanks’ ignominy, fellow American Madison Keys, only 19 and her career just blossoming, earlier in the day had to retire against Yaroslava Shvedova — a match that was to resume after Saturday’s rain interruption. An adductor injury prevented Keys from getting on the court, her retirement handing Shvedova the win.
Keys has been to Wimbledon three or four times, she said, but never made it to the city.
“Never seen anything other than Wimbledon,’’ she said, sounding chagrined that she’s never had the chance to visit the city’s world-renowned theaters. “I feel like for me Wimbledon is the end of a long trip. Once I am done, I am usually on a plane headed back home.’’
More and more here, it’s the American thing to do.