Improved fitness propels Eugenie Bouchard into Istanbul semifinals


Westmount native working to rebuild her tennis career, but low ranking means she’ll need a wild-card to gain entry into French Open.

Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard celebrates winning a set against compatriot Bianca Andreescu during first round play at the Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto on Aug. 6, 2019.


Eugenie Bouchard is getting her career back on track, but the 26-year-old tennis player from Westmount isn’t sure about her next destination.

“The remainder of year is just so unpredictable,” Bouchard told reporters in Istanbul, Turkey, where she has reached the semifinals of a WTA Tour event. “I’m just kind of living week by week, day by day. Tournaments are popping up every day, tournaments are getting cancelled every day. It’s kind of crazy. I don’t even know what I’m doing next week. I just know I have a match tomorrow and that’s it.”

While the focus of the tennis world is on the U.S. Open, Bouchard has shown flashes of the talent and determination that propelled her to No. 5 in the WTA rankings in 2014. Bouchard, who was No. 330 when the coronavirus halted play in March, has climbed back into the top 200 with strong performances in Prague and Istanbul.

But she faces another extended layoff because her ranking isn’t high enough to get her into the next three stops on the women’s calendar — Rome, Strasbourg, France, and the French Open in Paris. Her only hope for the next month is for someone to recognize her improved play and offer her a wild-card entry. And her prospects for play in October are limited because most of the events in Asia have been cancelled.

Bouchard did get a wild card in Prague last month and she justified her presence by reaching the quarter-finals, where she lost in three sets to U.S. Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens.

She had to qualify in Istanbul, but a couple of dramatic three-set victories in the main draw highlighted her decision to improve her fitness. After posting a 4-10 record in WTA Tour matches and failing to qualify in four other events, Bouchard moved to Las Vegas where she worked with Gil Reyes, the fitness guru who is best known for his work with Andre Agassi.

The results of that work were evident this week. She upset top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 7-6 (3), 6-7 (5), 6-2 on Thursday in a match that last two hours and 50 minutes. On Friday, she was on the court for more than three hours before beating Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. It was the kind of hard-fought comeback that had been Bouchard’s trademark during her magical 2014 season.

“I think I won because of not giving up, fighting through being tired physically and mentally,” Bouchard said Friday. “I’m really proud of that.”

The draw in Istanbul has opened nicely for Bouchard to go further because there are no seeded players among the final four. In Saturday’s semifinal, she faces Spaniard Paula Badosa, who is ranked No. 94. The other semifinal pits Patricia Maria Tig of Romania (No. 88) against qualifier Tereza Martincova of Belarus (No. 136).

While Bouchard will have to rely on the kindness of strangers for a wild card or two there will be a strong Canadian presence as the clay-court season — normally held in spring — gets underway on Monday. U.S. Open quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov, Montrealer Félix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic are all direct entries in ATP events in Rome and Hamburg, Germany, as well as the French Open. Vasek Pospisil also has a direct entry into the French Open, but will have to qualify in Rome and Hamburg.

Laval’s Leylah Annie Fernandez, who celebrated her 18th birthday this week, is the only Canadian woman with a direct entry into the French Open. Bianca Andreescu, who hasn’t played since last October, is entered but isn’t expected to play. She won the U.S. Open last year after missing four months with a shoulder injury. She injured her knee in October and is dealing with a foot injury.

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