London: Eugenie Bouchard said she was feeling the joy flowing again at Wimbledon after a torrid year that saw her high-flying career plunge into a tailspin.
The 22-year-old said she was playing the best she has all year after booking her place in Saturday’s third round at the All England Club.
The Canadian 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 blonde then saw her career nosedive in 2015 and her ranking slump. The former world number five is now ranked 48 and well outside the Wimbledon seedings.
“Everyone has ups and downs, in tennis and in life,” Bouchard said after beating British 16th seed Johanna Konta 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 on Centre Court on Thursday.
“So I have experienced both of those to the extreme in tennis. I have learned a lot from it. I have been able to experience feeling those expectations and pressure and all that kind of stuff, which weighed down on me a little bit last year.
“So I have learned from that, and now I really find the joy in tennis and only want to look forward and just try to become the best player I can be.”
The Quebec native was delighted with her win over Konta, achieved before a partisan crowd for the British number one.
“It’s my best performance of 2016. I have been working very hard, and I know that matches like this with a good performance will come, that it’s just a question of time,” she said.
“It was still a great atmosphere to play, even if the whole crowd is against me. I see that as a challenge. I enjoy the atmosphere no matter what, because as long as the fans are enjoying the tennis, that’s what it’s all about.”
Bouchard says that being reunited with former coach Nick Saviano, the man who guided her to her successes of 2014, has helped reboot her confidence on the court.
“I feel now that I may be more on the right path and working hard in the right areas. That can definitely make a difference,” she said.
“I feel more focused on the court and having specific objectives in my mind and not worrying about anything outside the court.
“Because when I’m on the court, that’s my job and that’s the only thing I have to worry about. So I feel like I’m better at that this year.”
Bouchard will play Slovak 19th seed Dominika Cibulkova in the third round at the All England Club.
“She’s a fighter,” said Bouchard, the 2012 Wimbledon junior champion.
“Every match I have had against her is a really tough battle, physical and mental. I have a rest day on Friday and then I’m going to give it my all on Saturday.”