Eugenie Bouchard said she wanted to forget her troubled past and look to the future Wednesday as her return to form gathered pace with an impressive win at the Australian Open.
The 22-year-old, on the comeback trail after her high-flying career plunged into a tailspin, came through a testing tiebreaker against tricky Chinese Peng Shuai to win 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 and reach the third round.
Bouchard became one of the most bankable assets in women’s tennis in 2014 when she stormed to the Wimbledon final as well as the semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens.
But the confident, charismatic Canadian then saw her career nosedive in 2015 and her ranking slump. She also suffered concussion after slipping and falling in the locker-room at the US Open.
Bouchard says she has now rediscovered her motivation, with a run to the semi-finals of this month’s Sydney International boosting her confidence.
“I feel like I’m playing well and I could have chances,” she said of her early-season form, adding that she had learned important lessons over the past few years.
“I have learned a lot about the ups and downs of tennis, that that is how life goes sometimes. I have learned how to better handle the pressure.”
But Bouchard said she is also keen to put the past behind her as she targets a return to the top 20, from her current ranking of 47.
“I’m not thinking about the past anymore, I’m tired of thinking and talking about it,” she said.
“There’s no point looking back. For me, it’s only about the future. The first goal is to get back into the top 20. I don’t know when, though.”
The experienced Peng, a two-times Grand Slam doubles champion and a former US Open singles semi-finalist, was always going to be a difficult test.
But Bouchard rose to the challenge, coming through plenty of gruelling, physical rallies in the first set with her athleticism to the fore in a close-fought tiebreaker.
The Canadian scored a crucial second-set break in game four and kept the pressure as Peng began to fade, winning with a powerful forehand on her fourth match point.
She will next play either France’s Pauline Parmentier or American Coco Vandeweghe, with a potential fourth round clash world number one Angelique Kerber, whom she beat in Rome last year, awaiting her.