MELBOURNE – The philosophy of rebuilding, of going out and playing the matches and seeing what happens, has worked well so far as Genie Bouchard begins 2017.
But her second-round encounter with Shuai Peng of China at the Australian Open Wednesday had a little bit of yellow tape wrapped around it, potential hazards and warning signs of the type that crushed her competitive soul a little bit over the last two seasons.
The 22-year-old Montrealer is playing well, her confidence is as good as it’s been in awhile, and she’s faced with a winnable match and the possibility of more.
That pressure resulted in a nervous first set. The plus was that she was able to not only win the first-set tiebreak but pretty much roll from there, right into the third round.
Here’s some of what she said afterwards.
When you’ve been through the losses Bouchard has endured the last two seasons, there are some lessons learned and Bouchard herself recognized the symptoms early in the match with Peng.
Nerves, wooden legs that wouldn’t move. The burgeoning expectations – her own, and those of others – on her shoulders. But she got through it. Her opponent was helpful in that regard.
For Peng, it was also a great opportunity after several years of injury, and with the clock ticking on her singles at age 31. She made as many errors as Bouchard did – winners that were there for the taking but missed by inches. It helped. Peng’s generosity might have saved the Canadian from having to put together a comeback win.
With the muscle-memory of those pressure-filled thoughts jangling in her head, that wouldn’t have been an easy task, and not a challenge she has had to face so far this year given the nature of both her victories and defeats.
Next up will be American Coco Vandeweghe, in what will surprisingly be only the second career meeting between the two.
At Indian Wells in 2015, with little momentum going in, Bouchard somehow defeated Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-2. On that occasion, the American really didn’t put up much resistance. This one might be a different story.
But Bouchard said the win over Peng, the way she managed to keep the bad thoughts at bay, was going to be a big help going forward and something she could build on.