One-time tennis golden girl Eugenie Bouchard has emerged as the surprise packet at the ASB Classic in Auckland, powering into to the quarter-finals on the back of two straight set wins.
The off-season appears to have done wonders for Canadian Bouchard, who cast aside eighth-seeded Caroline Garcia of France 6-4 6-4 on Wednesday in her best match result in over a year.
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It's 15 months since world No.262 Bouchard last beat a player ranked inside the top 50, having endured a dreadful slump in 2019. At one point she was eliminated in the first round of 12 successive tournaments.
It was a remarkable plummet in fortunes for the 25-year-old, who reached three grand slam semi-finals in 2014, surging to fifth in the world.
She has capitalised on a wildcard invitation this week and now turns her sights to the tougher challenge of third-seed Amanda Anisimova, who dispatched Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-4.
"I had no expectations (before the tournament)," said Bouchard, who reached her career-high No. 5 ranking in 2014.
"I kind of want to continue having no expectations result-wise. I have expectations on myself, my actions and what I try to do on the court.
La surprise cette nuit c'est la victoire d'Eugenie Bouchard @geniebouchard contre Caroline Garcia à Auckland 🇳🇿 @ASB_Classic. La Canadienne s'impose sûrement 6-4 6-4 et affrontera Amanda Anisimova ou Daria Kasatkina, le choc du jour.#WTA #NewZealandpic.twitter.com/DqLZeBCrNn— Le Journal du Tennis (@journal_tennis) January 8, 2020
"But my ranking's dropped and I try to see it as I'm rebuilding and in a way have no pressure. I just want to leave it all out there and go for it."
Along with reaching the singles quarterfinals in Auckland last year, Bouchard also captured the ASB Classic doubles title with American Sofia Kenin.
"It's special. Auckland has always been good to me," said Bouchard, who got a wild-card entry into this year's tournament. "I'm happy to be here. Just grateful I have another day alive, another match to play."
Bouchard facing tough test against American young gun
Last year's French Open semi-finalist, the 18-year-old Anisimova will be favoured to win and set up a probable semi-final against an American compatriot, either Serena Williams or Coco Gauff.
Williams and Gauff play their second-round matches on Thursday, coming off victorious doubles hit-outs.
Williams and Danish great Caroline Wozniacki flexed their muscles together again as a first-time combination, dropping just three games in hammering top seeds Caroline Dolehide and Johanna Larsson.
An awesome display of power from Williams in particular has sent them into the doubles semi-finals.
Earlier, second-seeded Croatian Petra Martic became the first victim of a major upset this week when toppled 3-6 6-4 6-4 by French veteran Alize Cornet.
It was a blow for Martic ahead of the Australian Open, the 28-year-old having climbed to a career-high in the rankings on the back of reaching the French Open last eight in June.
Cornet's quarter-final will be against world No.82 Jessica Pegula of the United States, who notched her first WTA title in Washington last August. She, was a comfortable 6-2 6-3 winner over Slovenian Tamara Zidansek.