The one-time tour darling has rediscovered her mojo ahead of a clash with No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
Eugenie Bouchard was the girl with the curl at Australian Open 2014, making it to the semifinals at age 19 before losing to eventual champion Li Na. She quickly became a tour darling, also reaching the French Open semifinals and the Wimbledon final – a first for a Canadian. Her fearless, take-no-prisoners game style had greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova predicting a brilliant future. Her good looks and bubbly personality made agents and promoters drool over the fortunes to be made selling the Bouchard brand.
A year ago she was a Melbourne Park quarter-finalist but then went into freefall. From March until August she was 3-15.
Her funk reached a low point in her hometown of Montreal in April when she lost Fed Cup matches to Romanian players ranked No.69 and No.104. She then lost in the first round of both the French Open and Wimbledon.
The best tennis minds were baffled by the Bouchard funk – was it forearm, abdominal and ankle injuries, was it the sophomore jinx or was it the distractions of her blossoming superstardom?
It remains a mystery but she turned things around at the US Open, beating Australian Open 2014 finalist Dominika Cibulkova in a thrilling third round 7-6(9) 4-6 6-3 and looked to go further, playing veteran Roberta Vinci in the fourth round.
Then there was her fateful fall in the locker room late at night and a concussion that effectively ended her year.
But Genie is back after winning six pre-Australian Open matches and reaching the Hobart final last week.
She is revitalised and that sets up Wednesday night’s encounter at Rod Laver Arena with No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska.
“I feel no pressure whatsoever,” the No.37-ranked Bouchard says. “In January 2015, I had this weight on my shoulders from my previous year. Now I feel like I’m restarting – it’s my first year on tour again. I feel like 18-year-old Genie.”
Radwanska, winner of her past three tournaments including the 2015 WTA Finals in Singapore, will be a true test for Bouchard.
Daria Gavrilova, heroine of Australia’s 2016 Hopman Cup victory, is also in for a tough test with two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. But the 21-year-old transplanted Russian has lots of spunk and shouldn’t be intimidated on Wednesday evening at Margaret Court Arena.
That may also be the case for Alexandr Dolgopolov in his Rod Laver Arena day-session match with Roger Federer. The two practised together recently in Dubai and Federer claims the 27-year-old Ukrainian has got “fitness, the power, the speed, tennis IQ – all that.”
Some day Omar Jasika may possess those qualities, but for now the 18-year-old from Melbourne will try measuring himself against No 9 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a Margaret Court Arena evening match after his breakthrough victory on Monday.
Jasika will draw on home crowd support, the way Bouchard feeds off her famous ‘Genie Army’. Among its cheeky chants Monday was, “Shake-shake-shake, shake your Bouchard, shake your Bouchard.”