Maybe a mental reset was all she needed. That, and an exciting new team.
Westmount, Quebec’s Eugenie Bouchard had already been enjoying a 2020 resurgence prior to arriving at Roland Garros, and that trend has only continued this week. She booked a place in the third round of the French Open with a tightly contested 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Australia’s Daria Gavrilova on Wednesday.
It was an impressive second-round performance from Bouchard, who finished with 44 winners, five aces, and was keen to come forward, winning 23 of 38 points at net in the victory.
It was also one of eight victories in the month of September for the Canadian, who has rediscovered some of her best form in years in this shortened season. She is now back in the third round of a major for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open.
Some credit certainly belongs to the coaching team she has assembled.
Australian and former doubles champion Rennae Stubbs joined Bouchard back in June on a trial coaching run, and the two have clicked. Stubbs has injected more of an energy and presence on court to Bouchard’s game. This blends perfectly with her aggressive, flat-hitting tactics.
The 26-year-old also spent quarantine working on her fitness with Gil Reyes, an ex-trainer of eight-time major champion and former world No. 1 Andre Agassi. Reyes has transformed Bouchard’s physicality on court, and her movement looks quicker and more balanced.
The mental aspect of tennis, though, is perhaps what benefitted Bouchard the most in her second-round win over Gavrilova. Despite dropping a tight first set, Bouchard kept her cool and broke Gavrilova’s serve seven times.
“Tennis is so mental,” Bouchard said after the win. “It’s like boxing without the violence. It’s so important because all of us can hit forehands and backhands — it’s (about) who can perform those in the big moments.
“I know I’ve always been strong mentally. I’ve just kind of had to work on getting it back.”
Despite being jobless like many of the pros on the WTA for six-plus months, Bouchard was able to keep herself occupied during the hiatus. Along with training, she took an online class through Harvard in neuroscience, and spent time learning to speak Spanish and play the piano.
She got back on court in exhibition action with World Team Tennis in June in the U.S., before officially returning to the tour for her first tournament in August, reaching the Prague Open quarterfinals. She then made her seventh career WTA final at the Istanbul Open just two weeks ago.
Those strong results pushed her ranking up 164 spots to 168th on the WTA tour, and earned her a wild card into the French Open main draw.
It’s a far cry from where she was just one year ago. Bouchard endured an abysmal stretch of tennis in 2019, at one point losing 13 consecutive matches. Some fans wondered if she’d even consider stepping away from the sport for good.
Now she’s in contention at Roland Garros and is slated to play 19-year-old Iga Swiatek of Poland on Thursday. There are certainly parallels to be made between the two players. Both are former Wimbledon junior singles champions. Both players broke inside the top 50 of the WTA rankings as teenagers.
Swiatek is currently ranked 54th on the circuit, and exhibited great form early in the season, reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open. Her athleticism and movement are impressive at such a young age, and she has already notched two top-10 wins and made one WTA final in her career.
Bouchard will have to lean on her experience as she gets ready to play in her ninth career third-round match at a major.
Just six years ago, the Canadian took the tennis world by storm, reaching the Wimbledon final, and two grand slam semifinals in Australia and France. Now, in a year like no other and to a smattering of applause from the limited crowds in Paris, Bouchard is quietly and confidently playing great tennis again.
That’s something we should all take notice of.