Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard serves reminder of what she’s capable of


Canada's Eugenie Bouchard. (Mark Blinch/CP)

For a player who has reached the pinnacle of success in the sport, it was at times difficult for fans to reconcile how Eugenie Bouchard had lost her way. A former Wimbledon finalist and world number five, Bouchard has struggled with form and injuries for the better part of five seasons, affecting her ranking and confidence.

A run at the Istanbul Open this past week on the red clay was a delightful reminder of just how talented and skilled the Westmount, Que., native still is.

Bouchard reached her seventh career WTA final at the TEB BNP Paribas from Istanbul before falling to Patricia Maria Tig in the title match 2-6, 6-1, 7-6. The match was not without its twists and turns. Bouchard showed great resilience, as she fought back from down 5-3 in the final set and saved six match points before ultimately succumbing to her Romanian competitor in a third set tiebreaker.

It was a busy week that saw 15 hours of court time for the Canadian. Precisely what she needs.

Bouchard tallied six consecutive match wins to reach the finals.

After two victories in the qualifying field, she opened the main draw with a gritty three-set win over two-time slam champion and veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova. She then scored two more wins over top 100 players, defeating Danka Kovinic and Paula Bedosa. The tournament run is an enormous boost not only for Bouchard’s confidence, but also her ranking. She’s projected to rise 109 spots in the rankings to 163rd. The result will also allow her a spot at the French Open in Paris later this month.

A new coaching voice seems to have shifted her mindset and form.

Bouchard began a trial coaching run with six-time doubles grand slam champion Rennae Stubbs back in June, and the partnership is already paying dividends.

After competing in exhibition play at the World Team Tennis event against some of the world’s best players, Bouchard brought Stubbs with her to the Prague Open, where the Canadian reached the quarterfinals before bowing out in three sets to world No. 12 Elise Mertens.

Bouchard described how Stubbs helped her game in a Zoom press conference in Prague: “She has a lot of energy … I think for on court that is something that will help me. And I do feel I play my best when I’m more high energy.”

An energetic Bouchard on court can be special to watch. She has a deadly two-handed backhand she can utilize well on the stretch and hit for winners. She can play aggressively inside the court and dictate play. Her fitness and movement are above average. When she is serving well, everything seems to fall into place.

As someone who has fallen victim to the psychological challenge tennis offers, a swing of momentum and match wins in her favour could lead to a surge up the rankings.

Though she made her professional debut in Montreal 12 years ago, Bouchard is still only 26 years old.

We may not see her 2014 form again; that historic season saw Bouchard become the first Canadian woman to ever reach a grand slam singles final, advance to two other major semi-finals, and surge to No. 5 in the world.

The week in Istanbul was a throwback to Canadian tennis nostalgia, though. Bouchard was once one of the premiere role models and trailblazers of the sport in this country.

There is still time for her to write additional chapters for her story.

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