MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former golden girl Eugenie Bouchard is heading into the Australian Open with “zero expectations” of success after a year plagued by injury and poor form.
Following a breakout year in 2014, the Canadian tumbled out of the top 10 with first round exits at the French Open and Wimbledon.
Worse was to come, with a dramatic locker room fall leaving her concussed and forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open, an incident which prompted the former world number five to sue the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
After three months away from the tour, Bouchard made a positive return at Shenzhen last week, winning her first two matches before being beaten in the quarter-finals.
She continues her preparations for the Australian Open at the Hobart International this week but was playing down her prospects of a return to winning ways in the immediate future.
“A month or two ago I wasn’t even sure I could play the Australian Open so I‘m just so happy to be in Australia, looking forward to playing these two tournaments (with) zero expectations,” the 21-year-old told reporters on Sunday.
“I‘m feeling good... I didn’t want to play if I wasn’t somewhat prepared, so I worked really hard in the off season to try and catch up a bit.”
Returning at Shenzhen was a relief for the Canadian, whose run to the 2014 Wimbledon final and the Australian and French semi-finals in the same year saw her touted as a future world number one.
“To step on the court and play a full match with no pain, play three matches three days in a row, was a success for me even though I lost the last match,” said Bouchard, now ranked 49th in the world after peaking at five in Oct. 2014.
“I just feel like I still have a bit of that match rustiness, not quite that sharpness where I had maybe at the end of the year when I play a lot,” she said.
”It’s just about getting that back, playing more matches.
“I don’t know how long that will take, it’s a long journey but I‘m ready to do it.”
Bouchard will face American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round in Hobart.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien