By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Eugenie Bouchard reminded a Centre Court crowd why not long ago she was billed as tennis’s new golden girl and why she still might be when crushing the Wimbledon hopes of Britain’s 16th seed Johanna Konta on Thursday.
Since reaching the final in 2014 against Petra Kvitova the Canadian’s career has faltered while Konta has risen from obscurity, reaching the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Open and rising into the world’s top 20.
But the 22-year-old Bouchard made a mockery of her world ranking of 48 to win 6-3 1-6 6-1 and set up a third-round clash with Slovakia’s 19th seed Dominika Cibulkova.
“I think it’s my best performance of 2016. I have been working very hard, and I know that matches like this with a good performance will come, that it’s just a question of time,” Bouchard told reporters.
“I just need to keep working hard so that they are there more often. You know, just keep going.”
Bouchard’s decision to return to coach Nick Saviano, under whom she reached fifth in the world in 2014 after reaching the semis at the Australian Open and French before dazzling at Wimbledon, appears to have sparked a return to form.
She struck the ball early and with searing power to dominate the first set, but squandered game points on all but one of Konta’s service games in the second as the match swung in favour of the British player.
Konta had a break point at the start of the deciding set but Bouchard saved it with a volley and two double faults in the next game allowed Bouchard to move into a 2-0 lead.
The writing was on the wall for Konta when Bouchard battled back from 0-40 to hold for 3-0.
Konta did stop the rot at 0-5 but Bouchard was too far ahead and sealed victory when Konta wafted a return long.
So in the zone was Bouchard that she almost wanted the match to continue.
“It’s more about just being so in the moment that, it’s almost I didn’t want the match to end. I think it was good. I was enjoying myself out there,” she said.
Konta’s defeat means only one British woman is left in the draw with Tara Moore playing Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round on Friday. But she was not too downbeat, instead praising the performance of Bouchard.
“I definitely expected her to play well. Although her ranking may have gone down over the past year, her level of tennis never went away,” the 25-year-old said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Lovell)