Dubai: The last time she played here, Eugenie Bouchard was sent packing by German Annika Beck in the qualifying rounds of the Dubai Tennis Championships. It was in 2014 and admittedly in her own words, a distant memory for the Canadian.
Five years down the line, Bouchard is simply happy to get a second chance to be in Dubai and achieve something that she’s missed out on in the past.
“It almost feels like I’ve not been here before. My memory is awful, but I am happy to be here,” Bouchard told media after the draw ceremony of the women’s tournament on Saturday.
“This is an amazing city and I want to see it more. When I was younger, I never visited cities that I played in. But now I have realised what an opportunity I have and I think it’s about enjoying the experience,” the 24-year-old added.
Having won the 2012 Wimbledon girls’ title, Bouchard was named WTA Newcomer of the Year at the end of the 2013 WTA Tour. Bouchard then received the WTA Most Improved Player award for the 2014 season while reaching a career-high ranking of No. 5, becoming the first Canadian female tennis player to be ranked in the top-5 in singles.
Her best was yet to come as Bouchard made the tennis world take notice when she made it to the semi-final of the 2014 Australian Open before entering the Wimbledon final — the first Canadian-born player representing Canada to reach the final of a Grand Slam in singles. Bouchard’s exploits continued as she also reached the semi-finals in the French Open the same season.
“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 each time I step on court,” Bouchard admitted.
“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 added.
Bouchard has had a winning start to 2019 as she won the doubles title with Sofia Kenin at the ASB Classic in Auckland in January. This was her first title, singles or doubles, since May 2014. The success has certainly given Bouchard plenty of confidence to carry through. “I feel like I have made solid steps in the past months. Now it is all about staying healthy and keeping that good work ethic and practising 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 specifics like I have to get my rankings up. I just have to give myself chances to get as deep as I can in these big draws and give myself the opportunities against the big players. Of course, it feels like we are in the third round of a Grand Slam here. We’ve got to be ready to go from the start and just give everything on the court,” she shrugged.