Top fe­male ten­nis play­ers can re­late to Bouchard’s strug­gles with con­fi­dence

Cape Breton Post - - Sports -

Si­mona Halep boosts her con­fi­dence by post­ing mo­ti­va­tional quotes on In­sta­gram. Caro­line Woz­ni­acki got hers back af­ter tak­ing a break from ten­nis. Gar­bine Mugu­ruza be­lieves in her­self when she knows she’s done ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to pre­pare.

The world’s top ten­nis stars all have their tricks to help them bounce back af­ter tough stretches, but Canada’s Eu­ge­nie Bouchard may still be look­ing for one that works for her.

Bouchard said she was “ob­vi­ously a bit low on con­fi­dence” af­ter los­ing her firstround match against qual­i­fier Donna Ve­kic at the Rogers Cup on Tues­day. Asked what she needed to do to get that con­fi­dence back, the West­mount, Que., na­tive replied dryly: “Win matches.”

Mugu­ruza — the world’s fourth-ranked player and reign­ing Wim­ble­don cham­pion — agrees. But for her, there’s a lot more to it than that.

“If you win, it makes you more con­fi­dent, of course, but the first step is to feel that you’ve done ev­ery­thing you can to (pre­pare) for the tour­na­ment,” the 23-year-old Spa­niard said Wed­nes­day. “Ev­ery­body wants to win, but me feel­ing I did my home­work, you know: ‘I’m here, I’m ready.’ That’s help­ful.”

Mugu­ruza won the French Open in 2016, but then hit a rough stretch, los­ing her open­ing match at the Madrid Open be­fore be­ing bounced from Wim­ble­don in the sec­ond round by a 124th-ranked player.

She said she felt pres­sure to do well fol­low­ing her first Grand Slam ti­tle, which made things more dif­fi­cult. Now she has a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

“I’m con­cen­trat­ing a lot on work­ing hard, be­ing very hum­ble,” Mugu­ruza said.

“Most peo­ple think that if you

win a Grand Slam, you know, you have that ex­tra con­fi­dence, so much con­fi­dence that you’re go­ing to win matches by mir­a­cle. In fact, it’s not like that, be­cause you have all th­ese op­po­nents that they just want to beat you, and they’re play­ing very well as well.”

Bouchard rose to fame in 2014, reach­ing a ca­reer-high No. 5 rank­ing when she made the Wim­ble­don fi­nal af­ter two straight Grand Slam semi­fi­nal ap­pear­ances. But since then Canada’s top women’s sin­gles player has slid down the WTA ranks to No. 70.

That’s some­thing that Woz­ni­acki, a former World No. 1, can re­late to.

The Dan­ish star reached the

top of women’s ten­nis from 2010 to 2011, main­tain­ing a top-10 rank­ing over the next few years be­fore plung­ing to No. 60 last sum­mer. While part of that dip came from in­juries that kept her out of the game, she said she was thank­ful for that time off.

“I wasn’t re­ally stress­ing about (the rank­ings),” said Woz­ni­acki, now back up to sixth in the world. “I knew that if I played decent ten­nis my rank­ing was go­ing to go up again. And it’s been a great year for me . ... I kept my head down and no mat­ter what ev­ery­one was say­ing I did my thing.

“I learned a lot about my­self and had an awe­some time at home. Then when I came back I

was en­joy­ing be­ing on tour too. ... With­out know­ing it I needed a lit­tle break to just kind of start from scratch and build my­self up.”

Bouchard, who has com­peted in the main draw at the Rogers Cup in seven straight years, talked be­fore the tour­na­ment about still be­ing ner­vous to com­pete in her home coun­try.

Af­ter her loss, the 23-yearold said she wanted 17-yearold Bianca An­dreescu of Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., to do well this week so “some­one else can carry the bur­den of Canada.”

Halep, the World No. 2 and de­fend­ing cham­pion at the Rogers Cup, has ex­pe­ri­ence with that. As Ro­ma­nia’s top

player, she’s been her coun­try’s best chance at a Grand Slam for years.

“It’s fine, it doesn’t bother me any­more,” the 25-year-old Halep said ear­lier this week. “At the be­gin­ning I didn’t know how to han­dle it, I lost a lot of en­ergy in the past but now I han­dle it pretty well and I feel good when I go home al­ways.”

Halep, who played her first match of her ti­tle de­fence Wed­nes­day night, said she tends to find her mo­ti­va­tion on­line.

“Every­day I’m go­ing through (mo­ti­va­tional say­ings), I’m check­ing on the in­ter­net,” she said. “I like to read those things and I think they give me a lit­tle bit of im­pulse to go ahead.”

CP PHOTO

Eu­ge­nie Bouchard of Canada sits in her chair be­tween games against Donna Ve­kic of Croatia dur­ing their first-round match at the Rogers Cup WTA women’s ten­nis tour­na­ment in Toronto, Ont., Tues­day. The top fe­male ten­nis play­ers can re­late to Bouchard’s strug­gles with con­fi­dence.

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