Eugenie Bouchard returns to Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and targets climb up the rankings
Canadian hit a career-high No 5 in 2014 - the last year she competed in Dubai - but has struggled since and spent most of last season outside the top 100
Upon her only other appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Eugenie Bouchard didn’t have much time to see anything bar the tennis court.
She debuted in 2014, the year that would change her professional life, battling through two qualifying matches before exiting in the third, at the hands of German Annika Beck.
Bouchard returns this week as a wildcard, and for the first time will contest the main draw. Saturday's draw ceremony threw up an opener against Belarussian Vera Lapko, with reigning French Open champion, and world No 3, Simona Halep waiting in Round 2.
Skipping the qualifiers this time around means Bouchard has a slightly less-hectic schedule, initially at least. Subsequently, she might even get to know Dubai a little more, starting on Saturday night with a visit to Burj Khalifa.
“I was here back in 2014 and it almost feels like I’ve not been here before,” Bouchard said. “My memory is awful. I’m happy to be here. This is an amazing city and I want to see it more.
"When I was younger I never visited cities I played in, but now that I'm old I've realised what an opportunity I have and so it’s about enjoying it.”
Bouchard’s most enjoyable season came in 2014, when famously she reached the Wimbledon final - the first Canadian to compete in a grand slam final - and the last four of both the Australian Open and French Open.
She ascended to a career-high fifth in the world rankings, but has struggled since and spent most of last season outside the top 100. Yet there has been progress this year, with the run to the quarter-finals in Brisbane offering real reason for optimism.
An unlucky draw at last month’s Australian Open precipitated the third round defeat to Serena Williams, but still, Bouchard enters Dubai sitting 80th in the global standings.
“I feel like I have made solid steps in the past months, and now it is all about staying healthy, keeping that good work ethic and practicing to keep trying to improve, like I have always done,” she said. “I want to do that now and bring it out on the court during the match.
“I have not set any specifics, but I have to get my rankings up as soon as I can and just give myself chances to get as deep as I can in these big draws and give myself chances against the big players in the world.
“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’re going to break through. I have that belief and I just have to keep working towards it.”
Bouchard knows she has her work cut out this week, however, with nine of the world's top 10 players participating in Dubai.
“It basically feels like we are in the third round of a grand slam,” she said. “We’ve got to be ready to go from the start and just give everything on the court.”
Updated: February 16, 2019 05:07 PM