Eugenie Bouchard Is Back With Melbourne On Her Mind

Eugenie Bouchard (photo: Jorge Ferrari/Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, January 11, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

In 2014, Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard garnered attention Down Under with a semifinal run at the Australian Open. She backed it up later in that same year by reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros, losing in the finals at Wimbledon, and advancing to the round of 16 at the US Open. Since then, her career has been beset with uneven results and injuries, which added up to a huge drop in her world ranking.

However, last year, the former World Top 5 Bouchard, born in Montreal, Quebec, returned healthy and with a sense of renewal that has seen her improve her ranking by nearly 200 places to No. 141.

On Monday, at the Australian Open women’s qualifying tournament in Dubai, the 25th-seeded Bouchard beat Australian wild card Abbie Myers, 6-2, 6-3. She’s won 12 of her last 17 matches since the resumption of professional tennis last August following the five-month coronavirus pandemic interruption. During her downtime, the 26-year-old Bouchard worked with Andre Agassi’s former strength coach Gil Reyes in Las Vegas, Nev., a city which she has called home since October 2019.

In an interview with the Australian Open website, Bouchard said: “I just wanted to feel physically so strong that I didn’t want the physical aspect to be a hindrance or an excuse ever in any match. I have confidence, I know I can stay out there for three hours. I can outlast anyone in three sets. So, it just kind of removes that from the equation.” 

Bouchard spent her quarantine downtime training. While she admitted it was difficult to not be able to play tournament tennis, she was “super motivated and felt very strong and very prepared” when the WTA resumed play last August. Immediately, she was a finalist in a WTA International event in Istanbul that she entered as a qualifier and it led to her receiving a wild card for Roland Garros, where she lost to eventual champion Iga Swiatek, 6-3, 6-2, in the third round.

“It was a blessing in disguise, maybe, to have the down time and I think I just worked on so many things physically, with my game, mentally as well,” Bouchard said.

“And, I was just so motivated to change my ranking because I had to sit there with a bad ranking for months and months and months. I used it as motivation.”

And with a new year arrived, Bouchard has ditched her old Nike attire. On Monday, she could be seen wearing a bright orange New Balance kit and trademark visor. Ring out the old, ring in the new.

News & noteworthy

Among the familiar names advancing to the second round on Monday were: No. 1 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, former Top 25 players Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine and Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, plus 12th seed Caty McNally of the United States.

However, one player among 128 in the women’s qualifying tournament drawing plenty of notice is No. 16 seed Mayer Sherif of Egypt, who last year became the first Egyptian woman to make the main draw of a Grand Slam. A former collegiate All-American at Pepperdine University, Sherif has won nine ITF singles titles – including a 100K in Charleston, S.C. last fall – represented Egypt in Billie Jean King Cup competition and achieved a career-high WTA ranking of No. 128 by the end of 2020 after going 26-10 in all competitions.

In Sherif’s first-round match, she routed Japan’s Akiko Omae 6-0, 6-1 in just 50 minutes. It advanced her against American Grace Min, who defeated Harriet Dart of Great Britain, 7-5, 6-2. “I think the thing that worked most for me today was to keep my nerves to hold on my attitude, and from then on my game just flowed,” said the 24-year-old Sherif, as quoted by the Australian Open website.

“I’m very confident about my game, about myself. And I think I just go to the court, do my best, and that gives me even more confidence. I’m very happy to be able to compete, very excited. And very excited for this year, just to hopefully try to get up the ranking. But the most important goal is to improve, and improve my level, get [a] higher level.”

Complete Monday’s results

Tuesday’s order of play