By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - Eugenie Bouchard was hailed as the new face of women's tennis just 12 months ago but the Canadian's downward spiral continued on Tuesday with a humbling 6-0 5-7 6-2 loss to Swiss Belinda Bencic in the opening round of the Rogers Cup.
Home fans had come out in force to cheer on the 21-year-old but had little reason to get excited as the error-prone Bouchard fell at the first hurdle for the eighth time in 10 tournaments.
Despite the disappointing run, Bouchard was eager to salvage something positive from her evening's work, latching onto the fact she was able to overcome a listless opening set to win the second and force the match to a decider.
"It's for sure a step in the right direction," Bouchard told reporters.
"I feel like I started out a little bit rusty in a sense. Haven't had a lot of match play recently, but I was able to raise my game and I think it was pretty competitive out there after that first set.
"So I'm pleased with my performance."
It has been a stunning fall from grace for Bouchard, who last year reached the semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens and the final at Wimbledon.
Everyone from world number one Serena Williams to WTA Tour CEO Stacey Allaster tipped her as the sport's next star.
However, her meteoric rise has been followed by an equally spectacular slide that began exactly a year ago at the Rogers Cup in Montreal where she lost her opening match to unheralded qualifier Shelby Rogers.
"I think the losses are completely different," said Bouchard. "I was in a completely different situation
last year compared to this year.
"I feel like I handled myself really well tonight, better than I did last year coming into that Montreal tournament.
"I was fighting on every single point up until the end and at the end of the day that's all I can ask for."
Forearm and abdominal injuries forced Bouchard out of last week's event in Washington and the search for answers has led to two coaching changes in the last nine months.
Bouchard will now head to Cincinnati where she will continue her buildup towards Flushing Meadows and the year's final grand slam, the U.S. Open.
"I'm looking forward to the rest of the year as a chance to end the year on a better note than I started," said Bouchard. "I feel like I have some tournaments left.
"I just want to get on the court. I'm so eager to play tournaments, play matches and feel good.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)