Eugenie Bouchard said she was delighted to be at the centre of a “mob of love” at Wimbledon on Tuesday as the one-time runner-up tries to resurrect her career.
The Canadian lost to Petra Kvitova in the 2014 final but since that breakthrough year, which also saw her reach the Australian and French Open semis, her tennis has gone into a tailspin.
Once talked about as the ‘next big thing’ in the women’s game, the former world number five is now ranked 188 and the 24-year-old from Quebec had to qualify to get into a Grand Slam she nearly won four years ago.
But she beat British wildcard Gabriella Taylor 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 on Tuesday to book a second round clash with Australian 17th seed Ashleigh Barty.
“I felt great support. I saw a lot of Canadian flags. I got mobbed after the match, pretty much. But it’s a mob of love, so I liked it,” said Bouchard.
“I have improved over the past couple of months. I wasn’t able to play tournaments for a little bit, which was super frustrating, but it almost motivated me more as soon as I came back.”
Bouchard is feeling renewed confidence under new coach Robert Lansdorp. She said they have worked on “every shot in tennis, improving little things here and there”.
Despite her slide from the top, Bouchard is philosophical about her game.
“I have learned that life is great. Being Genie is great. Tennis is so fun, and I’m lucky to do it as my job,” she said.
“Not getting the results is tough, but I have found other things that even when it wasn’t going well, to still enjoy it, to enjoy things off the court. It is what it is. I will let the chips fall where they may.
“I feel a lot more comfortable on the court. I feel a little bit more like myself. I have always, deep down, had the belief.”
Bouchard and her next opponent, Barty, have something in common: both won the Wimbledon girls’ title.
“She’s playing great. I think she loves grass. I really want to raise my level and try and play my best tennis against her and see what happens,” Bouchard said of the Australian.
“I have always said winning the junior Wimbledon title was my best accomplishment in my career. I feel like immediately it really helped me transition to the pros. It gave me so much confidence. I shot up in the pro rankings soon after that.
“And having played all the Grand Slams, on-site, seeing the big stars in the second week I think helped me so much in terms of experience, in terms of comfort level coming back years later playing the professional event.”
Despite her woes over the past few years, Bouchard feels she is now in a better place.”
“I feel good right now,” she said, “and I want to just keep improving”.