PARIS, France - Former World No.5 and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard says she's 'proud' and 'grateful' to be having her best-ever Grand Slam in more than three years with her efforts so far at the French Open.
Currently ranked World No.168, the 26-year-old is a wildcard entry into this year's main draw, and with victories over Russia's Anna Kalinskaya and Australia's Daria Gavrilova, is into the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open.
The consecutive victories are the Canadian's first in Paris since she reached the semifinals in 2014, where she lost to eventual champion Maria Sharapova during what became her career-best season.
"I'm proud of taking advantage of the opportunities. There are so few tournaments this year. Especially with my ranking, I was very limited with what I could play. First of all, very grateful to the French federation for giving me the wildcard here," Bouchard said after Wednesday's 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win against Gavrilova, herself a former Top 20 player working on a comeback after a nearly year-long foot injury.
"Also grateful to them for making such a big effort to put this tournament on. We're all just so grateful to have jobs, have a big event to kind of end our season. You just have to be so grateful for every opportunity.
"I've tried to push myself in every chance I've had because I know there are so few."
Against Gavrilova, Bouchard bounced back after losing the opening set despite having had a 4-1, double-break lead. A 5-2 lead in the second set held up for the Canadian, despite being unable to convert three earlier set points on serve in the eighth game, and ultimately won four of the last five games from 2-2 in the final set.
"It was a physical match. She's a very tough opponent, gets a lot of balls back, is also able to mix it up," Bouchard assessed. "I'm just super proud of myself... I think after I went up in the first set, I kind of maybe backed off a little bit, let her take control of the points a bit too much. To her credit, she played well, took that first set.
"The fact I was able to bounce back is something I'm super proud of, is a testament to the mental strength I've been working on."
Ranked as low as World No.332 in March, Bouchard has found her form out of tennis' nearly six-month hiatus as a result of COVID-19, coming out of the break with a fresh perspective after spending much of lockdown in Las Vegas with famed fitness trainer Gil Reyes, best known for his 17-year tenure with Andre Agassi.
"Gil is one of my favorite people on this planet. He's such a special person. Words don't do him justice. You really kind of get to appreciate him just by knowing him," she said.
"I'm so grateful for his help. I mean, I've known him for, like, 10 years, but I've committed to working with him last October. We've spent so much time together, put so much work together. He believes in me so much. It helps me believe in myself."
After reaching the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic in January, Bouchard lost in qualifying at the Australian Open and in the first round of the Oracle Challenger Series event at Indian Wells, but has posted a 10-3 match record in four events since the restart.
That included a run to her first WTA singles final in four years earlier this month in Istanbul, where she came through qualifying and knocked off top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova before losing to Patricia Maria Tig in a thrilling championship match, and a quarterfinal showing at the Prague Open.
The results cut nearly 200 places off her ranking since the restart to her current position, affording her the opportunity to be considered for wildcard selection.
"I think I've had tough moments, for sure. I think deep down, still believing in myself no matter what, knowing my skill can't just go away, knowing that I've achieved success before... It's just something that I'll always have, reinforces my belief," she added.
"That's what I use when I need to work hard, when times are tough. I have especially done that I think in the past year or so. Proud of this constant work, really."
Looking for a berth in the fourth round of a Slam for the first time since the 2015 US Open, Bouchard is staying in the moment as she prepares to face talented Polish teenager Iga Swiatek, who's bidding for her second-straight fourth round showing in Paris.
The 19-year-old opened her tournament with an emphatic victory over 2019 finalist Marketa Vondrousova, and followed that up with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-4 victory over doubles World No.1 Hsieh Su-wei, rallying from 4-1 down in the second set.
"I'm just happy to be here right now. I don't look [further] ahead than my next match, because really that's my next job at the moment is my next round," the Canadian said.
"I'm so grateful to have a job. I'm so happy to be at a big event. It's always special playing Grand Slams, no matter what. I think with the time off, I appreciate the little things even more.
"There are some upsets. I'm sure lots of interesting things will go down over the next two weeks. I'm just focused on my next one."