Go, Genie, Go!

Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard puts canada back in the tennis conversation

By Marcia Frost

After causing a stir at the Australian Open in the beginning of 2014, Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard quickly climbed up the professional tennis ranks. Bouchard became the first Canadian since Carling Bassett in 1984 to make it to the semi-finals of a major. She then picked up her first WTA title in Nurnberg, Germany, and continued the momentum into France, where she proved she had Grand Slam staying power.

As the No. 18 seed, she took it all the way to the semifinals, after she squeezed out a win over No. 14 Carla Suarez Navarro, and then took a set off seventh-seeded Maria Sharapova in the semis before succumbing in a crowd-pleasing match. The 20 year old spoke about her progression at her first Roland Garros press conference. “I have been improving my game since Australia. I’m at a different level from there. I have been feeling that way in practice and in matches recently.”

Genie also became the only player to make the semi-finals in both the Australian Open and French Open in 2014. She is assured a continuation of her top-20 ranking and is on her way to top 10. At five years of age, Genie played tennis near her Westmount home, where she lives with three siblings, including a twin sister. It was apparent right away that she had talent. She split her time at an early age between Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre in her hometown, and Florida, where her coach, Nick Saviano, lives.

“I started working with Genie when she was 12 years old,” says Saviano. “She trained full-time at the Academy for three years. She then trained with Tennis Canada and would come down periodically, sometimes with the Canadian national coach.”

Bouchard lived up to the hype. She won quite a few junior titles, culminating with the biggest of them all. Genie Bouchard would become the first Canadian to win any Grand Slam event when she picked up the 2012 Wimbledon Girls’ Singles title.

Long-time tennis journalist Sandra Harwitt explains: "As someone who frequently covers junior tennis, I encountered Genie as she worked her way through the junior ranks. It’s difficult to determine which youngsters will make it in the pros and who won’t. Genie was one of the few who, the minute you saw her on the court, you could believe that not only was her future bright but she’d actually live up to her potential.”

She joined the professional circuit soon after that and, in 2013, the WTA named Bouchard Newcomer of the Year. “I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised at how quickly she’s joined the elite players,” added Harwitt. “The best thing about Genie is she still seems very grounded, which is hard when a you move up the ranks so quickly."

Bouchard has also been a huge asset to Canada’s Federation Cup. She is expected to be leading her team next year when they play in the World Group Competition. “I met Eugenie when she was 11 years old,” said Sylvain Bruneau, captain of the Federation Cup Team. “I was already impressed, especially by her maturity and work ethic. To have a player ranked 18 in the world, who can compete against anyone, is very important if you wish to compete a World Group 1 level, which we will do in 2015 for the very first time in our history.”

Bouchard maintains a fun banter with her fans on social media with over a half million followers on Facebook and 150,000 on Twitter. She makes it clear where her roots are, recently posting a photo of herself wearing a hat sent to her by the Montreal Canadiens.

The 5’10’ blonde trains as hard as she plays. The work has certainly paid off, with earnings – not including endorsement contracts – already over $1 million. In the end, it has a lot to do with athleticism. It even got her the WTA’s “Shot of the Month” honour for April when she managed to return a ball from a seated position.

Saviano agrees. “Genie is dedicated to her fitness and athletic development. Her improvement from last year is a tribute to her relentless pursuit of personal excellence. Her ultimate goal is to be the absolute best tennis player she can be which she hopes will enable her to win Grand Slam titles.”

Eugenie is now in a position to bring home trophies that no Canadian woman tennis player has ever earned. “Being the No. 1 Canadian tennis player is an honour,” Bouchard said at a Roland Garros press conference. “If I can help grow the sport in my country, I’m happy about it.”

Summer 2014, Vol 6 N°3

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