Eugenie Bouchard overcame the early challenge of China's Peng Shuai on Wednesday to win 7-6(5) 6-2, sealing a third-round berth at Australian Open 2017.
“(I was most pleased with) the way I fought,” Bouchard said.
“In the first set I was pretty nervous and I felt like my legs were wood. I wasn’t moving well, I was reaching for the ball, but it happens to all players. At least I was able to kind of ‘win ugly’ in that sense in the first set. And then realised my level in the second.
“But the most important thing is to battle, even when it’s not going great for you, and that’s what I did.”
Bouchard began at Hisense Arena – her first time at the stadium – in perfect style, with an immediate break which she consolidated for a 2-0 lead.
Despite her self-professed poor movement, she still surprised Peng with her athleticism and ability to track down balls, which on a couple of occasions caught the Chinese languishing in poor court position and unable to deal with the reply.
Yet as the set progressed, Peng settled. She had no reason to be intimidated by the occasion or setting – this was a player who hit world No.14 in 2011 and reached the US Open semifinals just over two years ago. Injury had sent her ranking spiralling down to 664th in March last year, but within 12 months she’d hauled herself back inside the top 100.
And she hauled herself back into Wednesday’s match with a break to love in the eighth game for 4-4, her penetrating double-handed groundstrokes – especially in behind Bouchard – proving damaging.
To a tiebreak it went, and it was here Bouchard stepped up. Players swapped ends with the Canadian leading 4-2, and she brought up two set points with a forcing backhand that drew an error. Although she missed the first, Bouchard converted the second with a forehand winner off a short ball.
She finished the set with a narrow 42-41 lead in total points won.
“I really tried to focus a lot for that (tiebreak). I kept trying to play better every point – sometimes it was working, sometimes not,” Bouchard said.
“She plays a little different than some of the other girls. Obviously the two hands on both sides, she goes down the line a lot, inside-out sometimes so much that the ball is almost like spinning the wrong way, so it’s a different kind of game style which I had to get used to.”
In the second set, Bouchard quickly assumed control, displaying shades of the aggressive court positioning and relentless, early ballstriking that took her to world No.5 in 2014.
She broke Peng in the fourth and sixth games to build a 5-1 lead, and moved ahead 40-0 when serving for the match.
Peng showed some fight; the Chinese veteran blasted three straight winners to erase all three match points and won five points in a row to break back for 5-2.
That proved just a slight hiccup for the Canadian. Bouchard promptly reached 15-40 in the next game as Peng's game broke down, and sealed the match with a forehand return winner.
In the last 32 she'll face either Coco Vandeweghe or Pauline Parmentier.
“I feel better with my game now than I have in a while,” Bouchard said.
“I think that’s way I was also a little bit nervous – because I feel I’m playing well and I could have chance to do well in any match I play. So therefore I put more pressure on myself which leads me to play bad again, so it’s a vicious cycle.
“But I have to stop thinking about that, and just get back to the basics and focus on the tennis.”