Back in the top-100 and looking to keep up her positive start to 2019, Canadian Eugenie Bouchard takes to the court in Dubai this upcoming week with a newfound appreciation for tennis.
The former world No. 5, who is set to make her Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships main draw debut as a wildcard, believes she’s on the right track after struggling for the past few seasons.
The 24-year-old started this year by reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland (lost in a final-set tiebreak to eventual champion Julia Goerges), fell to Serena Williams in the Australian Open second round, and is up to No. 80 in the world rankings.
Bouchard is pleased with how she’s progressed so far, under the tutelage of her coach Michael Joyce, but more importantly, she feels like she’s enjoying her time on the court and making the most of her time off it.
“Obviously when you’re young and you’re on the tour, it was very exciting. But I truly appreciate now what I do as a job and I consider myself very lucky to be able to travel to amazing cities like Dubai to do my job, it’s crazy,” Bouchard told Sport360 at the draw ceremony at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Saturday.
“I make more effort now to see the cities I’m in and just appreciate the blessings I have in life.”
Ahead of her opening match against Belarusian Vera Lapko, Bouchard will visit the iconic Burj Khalifa on Sunday. The Canadian’s sole previous appearance in Dubai was in 2014, when she lost in the final round of qualifying.
The 2014 season was Bouchard’s most successful year to date and it saw her rise to No. 5 in the world and reach the Wimbledon final. She also made the semis at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. She hasn’t been able to replicate such results since and has been constantly questioned about whether she’ll ever be able to recapture that 2014 magic. Bouchard insists she is only looking ahead right now, and believes it’s important not to dwell on the past.
“I really don’t want to look back and try to be myself from five years ago. I want to be the best version of myself today and just always give myself a chance. Week after week if you keep pushing and keep giving yourself the chance, then one week you are going to break through. I have that belief and I just have to keep working towards it,” she said.
Helping her try to get that breakthrough is her new coach Michael Joyce, who joined her team last October after parting ways with Johanna Konta. Joyce also coached Maria Sharapova in the past and appears to have struck a strong partnership with Bouchard so far.
“I really like what he thinks about my game, how he sees my game in the future, trying to improve it. I worked a lot with Robert Lansdorp, who actually coached Mike back in the day, so they both kind of have the same voice, which I really like, and it’s just been very enjoyable so far,” said Bouchard.
Asked how she envisions her game’s evolution moving forward, she added: “I think it’s important for me to be very physical on the court. When I’m moving well, that’s when my game works its best because I’m able to take the ball early but also defend when I need to. And then improving weapons like serve, being super aggressive on return. Generally being aggressive and being myself out there as well.”
Bouchard joins a strong field in Dubai that includes nine of the world’s top-10 (Sloane Stephens being the only top-10 absentee). She is 5-4 win-loss so far in 2019 (including qualifying and ITFs).
“I feel like I have made solid steps in the past months, and now it is all about staying healthy and keeping that good work ethic and practicing to keep trying to improve like I have always done. I want to do that now and bring it out on the court during the match,” she said.
“I have not set any specific [goals for the year], like I have to get my rankings up as soon as I can and just give myself chances to get myself as deep as I can in these big draws and give myself chances against the big players in the world.”