By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday August 17, 2020
For the first time in a while, things appear to be looking up for Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard.
The 26-year-old showed very solid form last week at the Prague Open, recording her first Top 40 win in nearly two years and reaching the quarter-finals, where she fought valiantly before falling in three sets to Belgium’s Elise Mertens.
The once high-and-mighty Canadian dealt with a wrist injury and slipped all the way back to 330 in the rankings prior to last week, but she’s upbeat and feeling very positive about her game after pairing up with coach Rennae Stubbs and trainer Gil Reyes.
Bouchard spent all of her quarantine, except for the few weeks she travelled to play exhibitions and World TeamTennis, in Las Vegas and used the time to work on her fitness.
“I think at the beginning of it I was talking with my trainer out in Vegas, Gil Reyes,” Bouchard told reporters at a virtual press conference from Prague. “There are two different paths you can take this quarantine time, you can either be sad about it, depressed, and not do your job and not try to improve yourself, or you can try to work even harder and take the time and opportunity to get better.”
Bouchard said it wasn’t always easy without any short-term goals to target, but she kept a positive attitude and went about her business, balancing hitting with coaches and sometimes local player Asia Muhammad with gym time (a Reyes specialty). The strides made are showing in her tennis – she nearly pulled off an upset of Mertens in the quarter-finals, and struck the ball cleaner than she has in some time.
“It was tough mentally to push yourself day in day out without any kind of schedule, but I really tried to take it more as, these are just like bonus days you get to spend in the gym,” she said. “Normally as a tennis player we never had that time. All in all it made me work even harder in a way and then appreciate what I do even more.”
Bouchard rises to No.272 in the rankings as a result of the trip the the last eight in Prague, still a far cry from her career-best ranking of 5 in the world reached in October of 2014.
But she’s not overly worried about the number next to her name at the moment. Bouchard just wants to keep finding playing opportunities and take it day by day.
#330 Eugenie Bouchard beats #40 Veronika Kudermetova 6-0, 6-3 to reach the 2nd round in Prague. pic.twitter.com/dJUWOXCASx
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) August 10, 2020
“I think it’s important to have goals, specific rankings goals for sure, but it’s not something I focus on every single day, because I can’t control that today – it takes time,” she said. After starting work with Rennae Stubbs, the former coach of Karolina Pliskova, at a pair of exhibitions this spring, Bouchard says the chemistry is good even though they haven’t signed up for anything long-term just yet.
“I first worked with her at the exhibitions in Charleston and Lexington and that was kind of a trial,” she said. “We stayed in touch while I was at World TeamTennis, I was there for almost a month, we stayed in touch and she was watching most of my matches. I just asked her if she could come here [to Prague] and she said ‘Yeah, of course.’ We have nothing specific set in stone for the upcoming rest of the year, just because obviously the year is so unpredictable. We’re just kind of taking it week by week right now, but so far I love working with her.”
In the meantime, Bouchard will continue to put in the hard yards in an attempt to get her ranking back to respectability. For a player that once was considered elite, she has spent a disturbing amount of time ranked outside of the Top 100, but she does believe that if she continues on her current path, things will take a turn for the better.
“If I do the right thing I know I’m going to be better than where I am today,” she said.