Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard returns to Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro during their Women’s Singles Match on the opening day at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Monday, July 3, 2017. Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard will have to wait until the weekend to find out who she will face in her first-round matchup at the Rogers Cup next week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Adam Davy

Bouchard still feels nerves at Rogers Cup

TORONTO — Eugenie Bouchard still feels the pressure ahead of her first match at the Rogers Cup, even if the women’s event isn’t in her hometown of Montreal this year.

Bouchard, from Westmount, Que., remains Canada’s top women’s singles player despite dwindling down from a career-high No. 5 ranking in 2014 to her current position as No. 73.

And while Toronto isn’t home — “as in the place where I grew up and played tennis at since I was eight years old” — Bouchard is still feeling the nerves before Tuesday’s match against No. 51 Donna Vekic of Croatia.

“Look, Serena (Williams) still says she feels nervous before matches, so I don’t think it’s ever something that any athlete completely masters,” Bouchard said. “I think it’s more about how well you deal with it. And it’s just an ongoing battle, really. Some days I feel like I’m better at dealing with it than others.

“I feel like for sure I’ve learned more and been able to kind of maybe detach it a little bit and, really make it ‘OK, this is my job,’ and it’s not, let’s say, so personal. But it’s an ongoing process. It’s something I’ll always have to deal with for the rest of my career.”

Bouchard, who made a name for herself when she reached the Wimbledon final in 2014 after two straight Grand Slam semifinal appearances, has failed to make it past the second round in five straight tournaments.

A wild-card entry this week, Bouchard will open her Rogers Cup against Vekic during the day session Tuesday instead of the prime-time night session usually given to top Canadians.

Vekic won her spot in the main draw via a two-round qualifying tournament over the weekend. Bouchard won their only previous match against each other, a three-set victory in Shenzen last year.

Still, she knows a victory Tuesday won’t be easy.

“She’s a good player,” Bouchard said. “I watched her match at Wimbledon against (Johanna) Konta. That was a really good match, I thought. So I’ve got to be ready for her. I think being pretty aggressive and going for her shots.”

In an effort to find the level of success that has eluded her over the last three years, Bouchard trained with former No. 1 Andre Agassi and trainer Gil Reyes in Las Vegas this summer.

She even returned to the ITF Pro circuit, a step below the WTA, for a tournament in April, reaching the quarter-finals before losing to 896th-ranked American Victoria Duval.

“It was definitely a humbling experience and a bit of an eye-opening experience as well to see, obviously, the difference in the level of the tournament,” Bouchard said. “I mean, we didn’t even need badges to get on site. You know, people just walked up and there were just so many huge differences.

“And it was something I wanted to go do myself and, actually, my whole team was against it, but I’m very glad I did. … There was great level of tennis, and I didn’t even win the tournament.”

As for what she learned while taking that step back?

“You know, kind of grinding at this level,” the 23-year-old said. “This is what you would have to do if you keep losing — so stop losing.”

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