CANADIAN star Eugenie Bouchard wants to prove her “haters” wrong after pulling off a first-round upset over China’s Zhang Shuai at the Sydney International.
Bouchard, the world No. 46 who was given a wildcard to this tournament after being eliminated in her first match in Brisbane last week, beat Zhang 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre to advance to the second round.
Zhang, ranked 23rd in the world, was broken three times by Bouchard, who has numerous critics and a perceived reputation for being more concerned with posting social media photos than training.
“First and foremost I play tennis for myself,” Bouchard said.
“I want to achieve results and success for myself but sometimes after getting a lot of hate, which of course I do, it’s sometimes a little bit of a motivating factor to try to prove people wrong.
“I want to prove to myself and to everyone that I can do it and I can be successful.
“I’m on that path. There’s a long way to go but I hope I can do that.”
It was just Bouchard’s second win since August.
“I knew that and it’s always tough getting through a first round and a match in the first couple of weeks in the year,” the 22-year-old said.
“I’m really happy I was able to regain my focus on the tie-break. It was really important to dominate in that tiebreak and continue to do so in the second set.
“For sure [this win gives me confidence], and I’m happy I get another match to try to keep on improving.
“I haven’t played much since last summer, so that’s what I felt in Brisbane last week, I just need matches, matches, matches.
“I’m grateful I get another one on Tuesday.”
Bouchard will play either Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova or German Laura Siegemund in the second round.
In other first-round games on Sunday, Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Irina Camelia Begu 6-1 6-4.
In the men’s draw, Nicolas Mahut beat Tomaz Belluci 6-2 7-6.
Ukrainian Elina Svitolina was forced to withdraw from the tournament because of persistent headaches.
Her scheduled opponent, Olympic gold medallist Monica Puig, is now due to face Caroline Wozniacki on Monday.
Bouchard expects world No. 2 Serena Williams to again be the dominant female player this year despite losing her top ranking to Angelique Kerber.
“Serena is always Serena,” Bouchard said.
“When you see her name in the draw you expect her to win the tournament.
“I don’t think that’s going to change this year yet, she’s still dominating so much. However, we all know she is not super human and it is possible to beat her.
“So there’s always that chance, but I still think she is very dominant.”
World No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska will be a major threat to the top two, but says her main goal of winning her first major has not changed.
“The goal is always the grand slam, nothing changes about that,” Radwanska said.
“This is another year to try. We’ll see how it goes.
“You never know what can happen in women’s tennis. Everything can change and we can see it in so many different sports.”