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21 February 2024

Canadian queen's comeback gathers pace

Pic: Getty Images


Eugenie Bouchard's return to form gathered pace Wednesday when she dispatched tricky Chinese Peng Shuai in straight sets to blast into the Australian Open third round.

The 22-year-old, on the comeback trail after her high-flying career plunged into a tailspin, came through a testing tiebreaker to win 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 on Hisense Arena and keep her Grand Slam dreams alive.

Bouchard became one of the most bankable assets in women's tennis in 2014 when she stormed to the Wimbledon final as well as the semi-finals of the Australian and French Opens.

But the confident, charismatic Canadian then saw her career nosedive in 2015 and her ranking slump.

She recently said she had rediscovered her motivation, with a run to the semi-finals of this month's Sydney International boosting her confidence.

"In the first set I didn't play that great, I was a little bit nervous," she said.

"But overall I feel like I am getting better with every passing day. I'm honoured to be playing on such big courts."

The experienced Peng, a two-times Grand Slam doubles champion and a US Open singles semi-finalist, was always going to be a difficult test.

But Bouchard rose to the challenge, coming through plenty of gruelling, physical rallies n the first set with her athleticism to the fore in a close-fought tiebreaker.

The Canadian, now ranked 47, scored a crucial second-set break in game four and kept the pressure as Peng began to fade, winning with a powerful forehand on her fourth match point.

She will next play either France's Pauline Parmentier or American Coco Vandeweghe, with a potential fourth round clash world number one Angelique Kerber, whom she beat in Rome last year, awaiting her.