LONDON (Reuters) - Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard has already won four matches at this year’s Wimbledon, only two fewer than when she went all the way to the 2014 final against Petra Kvitova.
The trouble is three of them were needed just to emerge from the qualifying event and earn a place in the first-round proper.
The 24-year-old, who has fallen to 188th in the WTA rankings from a career-high five in 2014, made sure all last week’s hard work did not count for nothing as she beat British wildcard Gabriella Taylor 6-0 4-6 6-3 on Tuesday.
After what she described as a “perfect” first set she was pegged back but finished the job in style in glorious sunshine.
She will face Australian 17th seed Ashleigh Barty in round two hoping to continue her return from her gloomy descent.
“I feel a lot more comfortable on the court. I feel a little bit more like myself,” Bouchard told reporters.
“I have always deep down had the belief in the tough moments of the match. I have that more and more now.”
Bouchard also reached the Australian Open and French Open semi-finals in 2014 but her fall from grace has been steep.
Injuries, a loss of form and a court case with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) after she slipped and suffered concussion at the 2015 U.S. Open have not helped.
The USTA reached a settlement with Bouchard earlier this year and after reaching a low point it now seems the Canadian, once dubbed the next big thing in women’s tennis, finally appears to be allowing her talent to flourish again.
“I definitely think I have improved over the past couple months,” said Bouchard, who is working with coach Robert Lansdorp. “I wasn’t able to play tournaments for a little bit, which was super frustrating, but it almost motivated me more as soon as I came back. I feel good right now.
“I have learned that life is great. Being Genie is great. Tennis is so fun, and I’m lucky to do it as my job.”
Another former runner-up who battled through three rounds of qualifying perished in the first round on Tuesday.
Vera Zvonareva, runner-up to Serena Williams in 2010, was beaten 7-5 6-3 by 11th seed and 2016 finalist Angelique Kerber.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon